EditorialNon-government serious gaming, Dec. 23, 2010

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Demand clearly exists for serious gaming. While thumbing through the latest issue of National DEFENSE, you can see articles about mixing live and virtual training to save money, boosting the need for simulators through an increase in unpiloted aircraft, and using a spy game to help with brain rehabilitation for veterans. Therefore, although it is quiet on the government side for the holidays, let’s look outside the military world to collaborations elsewhere — the commercial world — and findings from a university in Japan.

At I/ITSEC, the Serious Games Challenge, sponsored by Intelligent Decisions, showed that serious games are not just flight simulators or tactical combat programs. Many of the games, such as Rigglefish and TerraForm, teach scientific thought processes and chemical equations. We also saw a push for Change the Equation, which is a push to get kids more into science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 382_serious-games

As reported on Kotaku, one important part of growing interest in the above fields is through gaming. Activision/Blizzard, Epic Games and Microsoft are amongst companies involved with this initiative. It would only seem appropriate the Serious Games Challenge might want to incorporate Change the Equation as another push point for serious gaming.

Speaking of commercial gaming companies, there was quite a bit of interest at I/ITSEC around the Kinect. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 peripheral currently uses a gesture-based system for motion recognition at 320 by 240 pixel resolution. The big difference between that system and the systems used by the PlayStation 3 and the Wii is that the Kinect does not require the player to hold anything in their hand to control the game.

After I/ITSEC finished, Kotaku reported that MIT had hacked the program to be able to recognize fingers. Just over a week later, Eurogamer reported Microsoft believes it can quadruple the accuracy of the Kinect, pushing it to 640 by 480. This would give the solution the ability to recognize finger movements and other more subtle hand gestures, an ability often requested in regards to tactical simulators for the military. Kinect_11

The article on finger recognition reminded me of what I saw over on Gamma Squad, a report passed on from CrunchGear about a gesture-controlled robot arm developed by Tsukuba University. At first, that might not seem immediately pertinent to serious gaming — but it is a possibility for training. You can look at it in two pieces. One is the control method for the robot arm, which uses two cameras to look at the positioning and shape of the operator’s hands over 100 times a second, according to CrunchGear. The second is the arms then replicate the motions made by the operator. This would allow an operator to train for working with materials that might be dangerous to practice with in person, such as explosives.

As the holidays settle in, and many people exchange gifts of games and technology, think to yourself: How can this be used to help people train and practice? If you’ve got any ideas you’d like to share, feel free to e-mail swhipkey@intelligent.net.

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About the Author, (A.K.A Intelligent Decisions Inc)

Headquartered in Ashburn, Va., Intelligent Decisions, a premier systems integrator, provides a broad range of innovative, IT professional services, software, hardware and manufacturing solutions to federal, state and local governments and Fortune 1000 customers. Ranked on the VARBusiness 500, CRN’s Fast Growth 100, Inc. 500 and Washingtonian’s 50 Best Places to Work, ID offers best-value pricing and helps clients meet their strategic goals and mission objectives.