Test & Measurement
Handheld Video Game Controller Can Sense Players' Emotions
Researchers in the lab of Gregory Kovacs, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford University, typically develop practical ways of measuring physiological signals to determine how a person's bodily systems are functioning. Now they have developed a handheld game controller that can sense players' engagement and make gameplay more exciting. Doctoral candidate and project leader Corey McCall replaced the back panel of an Xbox 360 controller with a 3D printed plastic module packed with sensors. Small metal pads on the controller's surface measure the user's heart rate, blood flow, and both the rate of breath and how deeply the user is breathing. Another light-operated sensor gives a second heart rate measurement, and accelerometers measure how frantically the person is shaking the controller. Meanwhile, custom-built software gauges the intensity of the game – a simple but fast-paced racing game in which the player must drive over colored tiles in a particular sequence. McCall can then compare all this data to generate an overall picture of the player's level of mental engagement.