Gaming as a hobby evokes images of lethargic teenagers huddled over their controllers, submerged in their couch surrounded by candy bar wrappers. This image should soon hit the reset button since a more exciting version of gaming is coming. It’s called neurogaming, and it’s riding on the heels of some exponential technologies that are converging on each other. Many of these were on display recently in San Francisco at the NeuroGaming Conference and Expo; a first-of-its-kind conference whose existence alone signals an inflection point in the industry.
Summary: Hidden features, reduced discoverability, cognitive overhead from dual environments, and reduced power from a single-window UI and low information density. Too bad.
With the recent launch of Windows 8 and the Surface tablets, Microsoft has reversed its user interface strategy. From a traditional Gates-driven GUI style that emphasized powerful commands to the point of featuritis, Microsoft has gone soft and now smothers usability with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.
As the case studies accumulate, gamification continues to gain traction and garner attention. Yet despite its newfound credibility, most still watch from the sidelines. While it may not be right for every business, the stats are hard to ignore. In 2010, corporations spent $100 million on gamification, and that number is expected to rise to $2.8 billion by 2016. The fact is, when done properly, gamification can work. Brand innovators like Coke and Nike know this, and it turns out, so do scientists.
According to the research of gamification pioneer Jane McGonigal, the reason humans collectively spend 3 billion hours a week playing games is tied to the psychological effects delivered by game mechanics. The neurological flow of dopamine, triggered by these underlying mechanics, plays a powerful role in creating positive emotion. And when game mechanics are applied to marketing problems, the response is the same. No wonder gamification can elicit such extraordinary behaviors. Turns out, regardless of the context, we’re hardwired to play.
Image: Rendering of physical environment represented in the AbES software; in gamer mode, the player (yellow icon) navigates through the virtual environment using auditory cues to locate hidden jewels (blue squares) and avoid being caught by chasing monsters (red icons).
Blind people can learn the spatial layout of an unfamiliar building using a novel “video game” virtual reality environment that employs only audio-based cues, thus enabling them to learn skills that may improve functional independence, say US and Chilean scientists.
Video game characters with natural responses to human body language
Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London have been using theater performers to design computer software capable of reading and replicating the way in which humans communicate with their bodies.
Dr Marco Gillies from the Department of Computing has made virtual characters more believable by enlisting actors to teach them body movement. The actors interact with members of the public through a screen, and their responses to specific body language are memorized as algorithms by the software.
Summary: When a multinational company produces a localized country site, usability is often lost. Local advertising agencies design good-looking sites that don’t communicate.
Something was gnawing at me as I observed our last several rounds of international usability studies. Many of the websites we tested around the world had uncommonly low quality — not unlike what we saw in the United States during the 1990s.
Reflecting on this observation, I realized that the worst sites were usually not the truly local sites designed by local businesses or government agencies. Instead, the offenders often came from huge multinational corporations that fielded country sites with horrible usability.
J.K. Rowling’s ‘Book of Spells’ will allow players to wave wands and cast spells using Wonderbook technology.
It’s being called the reinvention of the storybook.
At a Monday announcement at the annual video game conference known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Sony Entertainment of America announced J.K. Rowling’s “Wonderbook: Book of Spells,” an interactive spell book that comes alive on PlayStation 3 videogame consoles.
[The following is the second of two articles by college professor and researcher Ben Lewis-Evans on games user research methodology (see Part 1, which covered focus groups, heuristics, and questionnaires, as well as giving a grounding in the topic of user research in general. In this article, Lewis-Evans covers interviews, observational methods (including think out loud and contextual inquiry), game metrics, and biometrics.]
Much like a questionnaire — a topic covered in the last installment — an interview is for collecting subjective data. However, the face-to-face nature of an interview means that you can be more interactive in your data collection, which if done correctly, can lead to very rich data. However, it is also obviously quite time-consuming, and it is harder to analyze and quantify the data you get at the end.
The quality of what you get out of an interview will also depend greatly on your own skill as an interviewer, so here are some tips.
SoundWave lets an ordinary laptop function like a Kinect sensor.
When you learned about the Doppler Effect in high school physics class—the wave frequency shift that occurs when the source of the wave is moving, easily illustrated by a passing ambulance—you probably didn’t envision it helping control your computer one day.