A British technology company is making its face-tracking technology available to the video game industry so that developers can create games that dynamically adjust according to players' fear levels.
The software, created by Waltham-based startup Affectiva, uses cameras to track players' facial expressions and can determine whether they're experiencing emotions including happiness, sadness and anxiety. Affectiva has now made a version of its software available to the Unity game engine so that developers using the platform can create games that track players' emotions and adjust things like difficulty and fear levels accordingly.
According to The Boston Globe, the first game to get the software will be Flying Mollusk's 2012 psychological horror title Nevermind, which employs a heart rate sensor to monitors players' stress levels over the course of the game and scales the difficulty according to how scared they are. An updated version of the game will track players' faces through a webcam and will respond based on the emotions they display.
Flying Mollusk founder Erin Reynolds called the software "a stress-management tool disguised as a game" in that it encouraged players to remain calm as they moved through the levels.
Game studios seem to be increasingly aware that the one-sized-fits-all approach doesn't always apply to horror and have therefore been coming up with new ways to keep us on the edge of our seats. Last year's Until Dawn, for example, used intermissions between levels to ask players about their fears, which would then be incorporated into the gameplay. While it didn't rely on fancy face-tracking tech, it was still a unique inclusion that led to variation in how events in the game panned out and the situations players were faced with.
Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder of Affectiva, told the Boston Globe: "Gaming has always been on our radar. Games to tend to bring out very strong emotions, so we decided that as a company we would enter that in a big way."