Haptics in the Gaming

By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2005-11-09 Print this article Print

Industry"> But of course, its the gaming industry that is most interested, and where people have the money. Grundy is an ex-Nokia exec, so I didnt have to explain the economics of phone downloads to him, and we didnt have to indulge in the list of caveats about whether games on mobile phones are a sensible way for a mobile operator to go.
I think regular readers of this column will know that Im a big download skeptic, regarding the costs of provisioning data as being inherently unmanageable in a voice-oriented network, untrackable by a voice-oriented billing system, and impossible to justify in a bandwidth-limited wireless environment.
However, whether its a long-term business or not, games are taking up budget. "I cant recall the exact figures, but I think youll find its over a billion dollars a year, the phone game market," Grundy said. So, money is changing hands, and games writers want to make an impact, and theyre seeing haptic phones as a way of getting an edge. He showed me two phones, both by Samsung, with Immersions "VibeTonz force feedback effects" loaded. In the United States, Verizon Wireless has bought the n330 phone for the Get It Now service, and you can play a game called 2Fast2Furious (from I-play) on it. The language is all about total immersion, "with all your senses acting together to create a picture in your mind, a visual sense with graphics, sound to hear the engine, and the haptics to make it seem real," a pleased Grundy said. I think you have to be able to play phone games to "get it" on this one. I tried the phone, and yes, I could tell it was vibrating, and my instinct was to throw it on the floor of the coffee room where we were sitting, as if Id accidentally picked up a wasp. But gamers are used to this. It is the case that profoundly deaf people can "hear" music through haptics. Helen Keller was famously fond of dancing in time with music, which she felt, with her hand on a radio cabinet; Evelyn Glennie, famous for being the first full-time solo percussionist in classical music, is actually profoundly deaf. I dont expect the rest of us to be able to fine-tune our sense of touch to that extent, but I can see why Grundy is optimistic that we can learn to use our haptic inputs in a rather more sophisticated way than we do today. At the end of my day, of course, Im only interested in the wireless side of this. Grundy and Immersion will, if you cant find a way of stopping them, anyway, talk for hours about the console game and the future of portable versions. For me, its phones that matter. I could embarrass them badly by asking why, if portable consoles are so important, Microsoft isnt showing the slightest sign of following Nintendo or Sony into the hand-held market, or of trying to put Xbox games onto Windows Mobile. But instead, I decided to limit my wet blanket responses to the observation that until the mobile phone industry actually finds a way of making more money out of games, its academic. Contributing columnist Guy Kewney has been irritating the complacent in high tech since 1974. Previously with PC Mag UK and ZDNet UK, Guy helped found InfoWorld, Personal Computer World, MicroScope, PC Dealer, AFAICS Research and NewsWireless. And he only commits one blog—forgiveable, surely? He can be reached at gkewney@yahoo.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.


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