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Valve is betting on a biofeedback future for gaming

The game developer that brought us Half-Life and Left4Dead sees emotion as the next step in game input.

Are emotions the next frontier in game development? Valve thinks so. VentureBeat reports that the company has been experimenting with a player's emotional experience with a game, creating tools that measure physiological signals--things like facial expressions, pupil dilation, the pH content of sweat--and incorporating that biofeedback into gameplay experiences.

Mike Ambinder is Valve's resident experimental psychologist, a curious position to keep on a game developer's payroll. At last week's NeuroGaming Conference and Expo he spoke at length about Valve's experiments with biometric-enhanced gameplay. One example sees players tasked with four minutes to shoot 100 enemies, with the time ticking down faster as players exhibit signs of panic. Another involves playing Portal 2 with your eyes, which would theoretically allow you to react much more quickly than a mouse.

Valve is no stranger to thinking outside of the (gaming) box; late last year the web started buzzing when the company posted a job listing for a hardware industrial designer and subsequently expressed frustration with "a lack of innovation" in the PC gaming space. And at CES this year Valve CEO Gabe Newell sat down with The Verge to chat about the potential of biometrics as input method for the future of gaming. 

Granted, we aren't likely to see any real innovation or an actual product just yet. I can't really imagine what a biofeedback sensor for gaming might look like, but trying to get my Kinect to function properly in my apartment is onerous enough--to say nothing of peripherals that would adequately analyze my sweat and pupils whenever I wanted to go for another round of Counter-Strike. But Valve is wandering into a brave new world; consider my interest piqued.

Hat tip to VentureBeat for leading us to the story.


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