Valve envisions eye-movement controllers

Valve envisions eye-movement controllers

By Rob Crossley

January 4th 2011 at 5:06PM

Half-Life studio intrigued by eye-tracker potential

Renowned independent developer Valve has once again shown it is banking on vision systems to be a part of the industry’s future.

The studio said it is “always curious about alternative control devices”, and is “constantly researching non-traditional controllers” for future gameplay approaches.

Mike Ambinder, a ‘game experimental psychologist’ at the Washington-based studio, told Gamasutra it was specifically intrigued by the potential of eyetrackers – and the “eventual ability” to use eyes as active controller inputs.

“For example, it may be possible in the future to let the eyes act as a proxy for the mouse cursor, letting gamers transmit navigation and targeting inputs via eye movements,” he said.

Speaking of how such technologies apply to wider accessibility and disability issues, Ambinder said: “If you couple this approach with the use of blinks or other proxies for button presses, you may remove the need for a mouse and keyboard, or gamepad, all together."

This is not the first time the Half-Life developer has shown an interest in alternative control methods. Last year the firm’s co-founder Gabe Newell said “biometrics will be really important” in the future game development.

He said: “We’ve seen a lot of work since the Wii shipped to explore how motion – and with this next generation of controllers – how vision systems are going to affect our games.

“Given that we have all these proxies inside of our games, that measure player state, we think that actually being able to measure small things like pupil dilation, heart rate – those are the techniques that are going to give our games enormous impact in the future.”

A year earlier, in what may be an unconnected development, Newell revealed the firm was researching how sign language can be used in games.