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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Gaming is the Mother of Invention

I’ve just played one of the most original games I have seen in years. What makes it stand out is the interface. And it wasn’t on a Nintendo Wii.

Currently the gaming world’s attention is roughly divided between the wacky Wii and the monstrously powerful (and power-hungry) PlayStation 3. The Wii has garnered huge attention not for groundbreaking graphics but for its innovative interface — basically a much more physical approach to gaming, with a wand to use as a sword, bike pump, steering wheel etc.

This isn’t the first innovation in gaming interfaces in recent times: the EyeToyfor the PlayStation also created a much more physical way for gamers to control the action. BuzzSingstar and Guitar Hero are other good examples.

Games have long been one of the driving forces behind the development of computer technology. You really don’t need a GeForce 8800 GTX for web browsing or word processing — or at least you didn’t until Vista came along. Nor do you really need huge quantities of RAM or a multi-gigahertz processor, But the more powerful the machine, the more realistic the gaming experience can be made.

But we are getting to a stage where the biggest restrictions on the gaming experience are no longer down to raw processing power. Instead it is the interface that is the limiting factor. Joypads are very primitive, and the keyboard and mouse combo used by PC gamers may be more flexible and precise, but it is hardly intuitive.

In the mobile computing world, the problem is even more acute, not just for gaming but for everyday use. While humans (or at least the younger ones) may have adapted to the numeric keypad for texting, for most it is far from efficient as a means of control and input. That’s where the game I just played comes in.

Arcade Reality uses the camera on the PalmOne Treo to capture the environment in which you play the game, and then superimposes sprites. You can then interact with the sprites by moving the camera around. Admittedly the interaction is fairly standard stuff — shooting and picking up goodies. But the game is no less addictive for that fact.

Now that the 3D graphics capabilities of the gaming world have migrated to mainstream PC use with Vista, it seems likely that the interfaces will be next. How about managing your emails by throwing spam towards a virtual bin with your control glove? Accepting or rejecting incoming phone calls with a thumbs up or thumbs down? Filing documents within a virtual cabinet?

Some options may be no quicker than a keyboard and mouse, or numeric keypad. But they will certainly be more fun.

(P.S. Thanks to MyTreo.Net for the tip about the game.)

Tom Cheesewright