Live from ISMAR ’08: The dARk side of Physical Gaming

Welcome to the late evening keynote of the second day of ISMAR ’08 in Cambridge.

The keynote speaker is Diarmid Campbell, from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (London), and heads its research on camera gaming. And we are covering it in real time.

Diarmid comes on stage. the crowed is going crazy…

The talk: Out of the lab and into the living room

What a camera game? Simply put, you see yourself in the camera and add graphics on top.

The trouble with the brain: it fixes things you see (example of a checkerboard, a black square in the light has the same color as a white square in the dark.)

Background subtraction is the first thing you try to do. Using this technique, Diarmid superimposes him self in real time on top of…the ’70 super band ABBA…

User interface motion buttons – use virtual buttons that the user activates. The response is not as robust, but it’s more responsive.

Example of EyeToy Kinetic

Next is a demonstration of vector buttons and optical flow.

You have to keep the control on the side – otherwise the player’s body will activate it unintentionally.

It turns out Sony decided not to use this control…not just yet.

A similar control was actually published in Creature Adventures available online. Diarmid struggles with it. The crowed goes wild. Diarmid: “You get the idea…”

Good input device characteristics: Many degrees of freedom, non-abstract (player action=game action), robust and responsive.

Camera games have been accused in the past for not having depth (too repetitive). There are 2 game mechanics: skill based (shoot the bad guy) and puzzle based. This could become shallow – unless you deliver on the responsiveness and robustness.

To demonstrate color tracking, Diarmid dives into the next demo (to the pleasure of the audience…). For this demo he holds 2 cheerleader pompoms…

“It’s like a dance dance revolution game, so I also have to sing and occasionally shout out party…”

The crowd is on the floor.

See for yourself –

We are on to drawing games, Sketch Tech. He draws a cow that is supposed to land on a banana shaped moon. He succeeds!

Using a face detector from Japan, here is a Head Tracking game: a green ball hangs from his mouth (a pendulum) and with circular moves of his head he rotates it, while trying to balance it…

Eye of judgment, a game that came out last year (bought out by Sony) relied on a marker based augmented reality technology. It is similar to a memory game, with a camera and a computer, and cards.

We are starting to wrap up and Diarmid summarizes, credits Pierre for setting up all the hardware, and opens the floor for questions.

Question: How do you make the game interesting when you’re doing similar gestures over and over again…

Diarmid: When the game is robust and responsive – you’ll be surprised how long you can play the game and try to be better.

Blair MacIntyre (from the audience): Robust and learn-able is what makes the game fun over time.

Question: Is there anything more you can tell us about the depth camera? Will it be available soon to consumers?

Diarmid: No.

The crowed bursts into loughs.

Blair (jumps in from the audience) There is a company called 3dv in Israel which offers such a camera. It’s not cheap or as good as discussed before, but you can get it.

Q: What’s special about camera games beyond novelty?

Diarmid: The 2 novel aspects of camera games are that it allows you to see yourself, and you can avoid the controller. Camera games are also great for multi-players.

Q: Is there a dream game you’d like to see?

Diarmid: Wow, that’s hard…I worked on a game before Sony called The Thing based on Carpenter’s movie. It was all about trust. The camera suddenly opens up the ability to play with that. When people see each other, the person to person interaction is very interesting and hasn’t been explored in games.

Q: will we see camera games on PSP?

Diarmid: there is a game in development, and I don’t know if I can talk about it…

Q: when I look in the mirror I am not so comfortable with what I see…how do you handle that?

Diarmid:  We flip the image. It’s hard to handle a ball, when just looking at the mirror.

And that’s a wrap! Standing ovation.

~~~

After party shots…


2 Responses

  1. […] are the kind of games Diarmid Campbell demonstrated live on stage while delivering the unforgettable keynote at ISMAR 2008 last […]

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