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Technology is a key pillar of the video gaming industry, so it’s no real surprise that as new technologies come onto the market they are quickly assimilated into our gaming experience.
Game developers and console manufacturers have already experimented with Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), motion tracking, and motion input controllers. The next-stage technological hot potato to be making its way into gaming at the moment is facial recognition.
Once a part of Orwellian dystopian fantasies, facial recognition has become a part of the fabric of our daily lives, letting us log on to our phone, allowing the government to monitor our movements, and even flagging high rollers and VIPs to casinos’ security for special treatment before they hit the floor.
Of course, facial recognition tech has been with us since Microsoft allowed you to log on to your Xbox live account using the Kinect thing, the PS4 also does when paired with the PlayStation Camera.
However, that was more of a gimmick than a real feature, and it played a limited role in how you actually gamed. With VR games like Blood and Truth and Ghost Giant proving that previously-gimmicky techs can now make a real difference in the quality of a game, facial recognition is starting to creep into the talking points for future games.
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Facial Recognition and Adaptive Gaming
Since the adoption of facial recognition biometrics by mobile phone manufacturers, the tech has come on in leaps and bounds. Now that it’s significantly more accurate and able to recognize a much wider range of facial expressions, one of the ways facial recognition could be inserted into games is having an adaptable difficulty rating.
The game Nevermind is already taking advantage of facial recognition to adjust the difficulty based on the level of fear the system registers on the face of the player.
Games like Space Astro Blaster use head movements to control spaceships and eye blinks to trigger weapons to fire.
Console manufacturers are also talking about using facial recognition to detect when a user is confused and offer them additional help.
Video Gaming, Facial Recognition, and Restrictions
Perhaps the biggest news in videogame facial recognition is coming out of China, where Chinese tech giant Tencent recently announced that will be using facial recognition technology to both identify and regulate the players of its game Honor of Kings.
Part of the reason that Tencent has chosen to implement facial recognition in the highest-grossing online game in China is because of a direct criticism by the Chinese government.
Nearly 500 million people Chinese people (just over half of the population) suffered from some type of visual impairment. There are also concerns about video-game addiction in younger players. Because of its popularity, Honor of Kings acts a lightning rod for these criticisms and has been called out by name by China’s President, Xi Jinping.
In response, Tencent is now looking to implement a system that matches players to their national identity database. That information would then be used to limit playing time; currently, younger player are restricted to two hours of play per day, and if a player gets too close, the screen blurs in an attempt to reduce potential eye damage.
An Interesting Future
Obviously, there are significant freedom of expression and privacy concerns around Tencent’s use of facial recognition. But, its adoption and use by one of the biggest game developers in the world, coupled with a spike in both the quality of the technology and the interest in its use, means that facial recognition could soon be as much a part of the gaming industry as VR has become.
Unlike VR, however, gamers will need to decide how much they want their games and game developers using their face as another form of data collection.