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Category Archives: Video Games

Deakin’s Universal Motion Simulator (UMS) enables users to engage in a natural flight experience. Here, users feel g-forces as they soar through virtual and real space. The idea of immersive flight simulations is nothing new, but the advances in technology that provide a stronger feeling of presence cannot be overlooked.

Image copyright F-SIM Space Shuttle.

Admittedly, when I first saw this three things went through my mind. The first was a simulation I participated in as a child – I think it was in a NASA-affiliated museum of some sorts. In this simulator, I had to land a space rocket on the virtual runway. I never forget that experience because I managed to successfully land the space craft, but I didn’t know you had to press the “release parachute” button to slow down. So, my shuttle eventually ran into the grass at the end of the runway. Whoops.

The second thing that came to my mind was a game series on the PS2 called Zone of Enders. With the way the UMS moved about, I thought of how the Jehuty in ZOE moves about on the screen. Sure, I could have thought about other robot games like Armored Core or Gundam, but from my experiences these series always felt a bit slow and clunky compared to ZOE, which is saying something because AC’s battles can be quite fast at times.

And finally, the third thought I had pertains to combining ZOE-like combat with the immersion afforded by the UMS. Creating entertainment applications such as immersive gaming simulators is something I aspire to do one day. While UMS already supports the real-world flight simulation, I think the bigger market will be in the mass consumer sector once the technology becomes more affordable for the general public.


Don’t mind me, but I’m thinking it’d be really cool if we had some Trauma Center and da Vinci Trainer combo. You know, maybe with a bit less “Healing Touch” and a bit more Haptic Technology!

I came across this gem some days ago while browsing on ImTech’s front page. I must say, I’m quite impressed with the effort The Gadget Show put toward constructing such an immersive experience for their simulator’s users!

Some of you might think the show’s hosts were getting too excited about “how immersed” users seemed based on their reactions in the simulator. From a competitive gamer’s perspective, I could imagine this “hesitancy to move” being detrimental for your overall ranking, unless you were participating in survival ratings over the kill/death ratio FPS standard. However, from a researcher’s or experience designer’s perspective, the level of immersion – known as Presence (the measure of how “real” a simulation appears) – is quite important for influencing human behavior.

What does that really mean though? It means the way you act in the game/simulation may change radically depending on how present you feel in the environment. For example, a typical FPS gamer may just run into the battle ground and shoot at enemy targets while being shot at himself. There is no consequence for dying with the exception of a lower score or potentially getting kicked off your team if you don’t contribute much.

Now, contrast that low-risk style of game play with the presence felt in a fully-immersive simulator complete with physical pain mapping: you get players who will be much more meticulous with their actions as demonstrated in the video by SAS operator Andy McNab. If the user suffers a gunshot wound in the game, part of the change may be caused by the desire to avoid the paintball barrage effect penalty, but this consequence is coupled with the ability to walk, look, and aim through natural physical movement instead of button presses and joystick flicks. Together, these features provide several layers of immersion in the system, which delivers an overwhelming sense of a “second” reality. Despite knowing they are playing a game, users will undoubtedly treat the game more as if it were a real-life situation due to the immense presence they feel.

This is why presence is such a huge accomplishment to achieve in virtual environments and simulations. Without this level of immersion, people may treat the simulation as a low-risk environment and thus not engage with it like they would if they believed there was a higher connection. Think about using this kind of technology for training doctor, which is happening by the way. I can’t wait till we have even more immersive tech pervading through our society on a more commercial scale for others to appreciate!

As an appropriate beginning for this blog, I figured I should begin with one of my first exposures to immersive technologies. How else did I get interested in the subject without some kind of lead, right?

Fashionable VR to recover your memories from your past!

So, “What’s with this image?” you may be asking yourself (which by the way was shamelessly pulled from Insight On Video Games).

Well, Star Ocean: The Second Story (SO2) for the PlayStation is one of the culprits entities responsible for my interest in Virtual Reality (VR). In particular, the scene above occurs after our heroes leave their home planet Expel with no way of returning. Some time late game, the “Mysterious old man” offers our heroes a way home via the latest VR technology! Kind of similar to the scene with Neo and Morpheus in the Matrix, where Morpheus offers Neo the choice to find out more about the Matrix.

Upon accepting the man’s offer, the heroes can walk on their home planet once again. There are some subtle changes such as additional areas to explore thanks to the Synard, which is an aerial mode of transportation in the game, but ultimately the recreation of the world, now called Virtual Expel, is entirely the same.

When SO2 first came out, I was barely beginning middle school. At the time, I didn’t think much about the implications of VR other than I could explore places and do things I wasn’t able to participate in previously in the context of SO2’s plot.

Despite acknowledging this potential – the ability to do things inside a virtual world that you normally couldn’t do in the real world – with respect to the game, I didn’t make the connection between mapping this application to my real world. I wouldn’t come by this realization until after .Hack//Sign (pronounced “dot hack sign”) captivated me with its complex and interpersonal narrative some years later.  Still, it’s interesting to note that these initial musings started as early as they did and slowly eased more and more into my interests.

While SO2 didn’t really give me the biggest exposure to immersive technology, it certainly was one of the initial factors that contributed to my interest in VR, which I would later explore in depth as a viewer of .Hack//Sign and eventually as a senior research assistant in Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.