When Cossman went to Ambrym, he and his team used a drone to map out every nook and cranny of the volcano, covering both craters. That map was in turn made into a full three-dimensional rendering. Using the Unreal game engine inside an AvayaLive Engage virtual environment, it's possible for anyone with a login to explore Ambrym from the comfort of their laptop screen. Which is what I'm doing. With a jetpack.
The jetpack is a video game conceit. The crater is full of steep edges, and jetpacks are a simple solution to avoid getting stuck. Even without the difficulty of climbing up, the crater itself is huge. The avatars stand about six feet tall in the virtual environment, and while moving in the game is less physically taxing (not to mention less life-threatening) than crawling around an actual volcano, it’s not much faster if you don't use the jetpack.
In the early days of video games, much of the industry made money 25 cents at a time. But today’s video game moguls aren’t counting quarters, they’re making millions. Some of them rank among the richest people in the world
The difference from past generations of educational software–think programs that teach typing or basic math–is that these apps feel like games, not homework. More than 18 million people have downloaded Lumosity, a puzzle program created by neuroscientists in collaboration with game designers, since it launched last year. Duolingo, an app that teaches foreign languages, grants users experience points and badges as they learn new grammar skills, much as console titles like Call of Duty do. And Codecademy teaches the basics of computer programming in short tutorials.
Jintronix sells the Kinect for the standard $250 and charges $50 a month for its software, which lets physical therapists program routines for patients and adjust the difficulty as mobility improves.
In one game, the player controls a fish and must motion up and down or draw a figure eight to make it eat. A whack-a-mole-style game designed to strengthen leg muscles asks the patient to walk to various parts of the screen when a bunny pops up. As the patient moves, Jintronix tracks whether he’s performing the exercises correctly so therapists can make tweaks. The software monitors each patient’s progress and compares it with that of people with similar injuries and ages. Yannick Belanger, 44, says it has helped him recover some mobility in his left arm since his stroke in September.
There are already legendary islands off China’s southern coast where the millions travel to play games of chance. Soon an additional island (Hengqin) will host throngs of gamers turning out to watch others play Xbox, complete with a 15,000-seat arena.
The arena will be the centerpiece of a $2.8 billion gaming theme park. A Hong Kong-based developer, Lai Fung Group, has just announced plans to build the video game complex. A handful of dedicated facilities for video game competitions have begun to emerge, part of a trend that marks a sort of coming of age for “e-sports.”
A "cognitive activity tracker" developed by Kai Kunze at Osaka Prefecture University in Japan can tell how many words we read, how often and how fast we read, and even whether we are skim reading or actually concentrating on the content. It could also generate summaries of documents as you read them by logging which passages your eyes dwell on.
Such detail about what we look at, whether on a screen or on paper, is being made possible by the emergence of gaze-trackers – devices that monitor our eyes to analyse where we are looking. Swedish firm Tobii Technology is leading the way in commercialising the technology. It has developed a $99 system that uses infrared cameras trained on the cornea to watch for the eyeball's movements. These cameras can be built into a headset, such as Google Glass, or clipped to the top of a computer screen or tablet.
On March 18, Sony (SNE) announced Project Morpheus, its long-term effort to develop a VR headset for the PlayStation 4. Sony’s idea is more social—displaying the virtual world from its glowing blue headset on a TV screen for others to watch. Morpheus also uses the PS4 camera to replicate user movement in-game. “Seeing how the development community was starting to respond to Oculus Rift (since acquired by Facebook) gave us a prompt to take something we were experimenting on and make it more of a product,” says Sony Computer Entertainment President Andy House, adding that Morpheus won’t be on shelves this year.
Technical Illusions has developed castAR, a pair of high-tech glasses that project 3D hologram like images, and a “magic wand” that can be used to interact with the holographic projections to enliven gaming and teaching.