How Google Glass Could Change the Face of Gaming

By Steven Wong, Jun 25, 2014 12:00pm PDT

The annual Google I/O Developer Conference started today, and that got us thinking about how Google Glass might revolutionize how we see life. Although the Oculus VR has rightly dominated the conversation lately, we began to wonder about how a gadget as compact as Google Glass might have a big impact on the way people interact with games and each other.

Altered Reality

It doesn’t look like altered reality games have taken off beyond a few niche video games and a number of tabletop card games. That could change if a good large number of people start wearing a screens on their heads. Things could start off simply at first, with ports of existing card games and altered reality versions of classic board games like chess. More sophisticated uses could include having an interactive inventory shown on your coffee table, or holding up a plain sheet of paper of cloth that displays a map that updates as you explore. Glass can translate ancient texts that you discover in the game. A more niche use could include subtitles for games that you want to play using foreign language voices.

A HUD-Free Interface

Games like Dead Space make a point of having a minimal HUD that integrates health meters, energy, and the ammo count with objects in the game. But a companion app could make it possible to eliminate the HUD altogether. Critical data like health and ammunition could be displayed on the Google Glass screen while the main screen can be completely dedicated to showing the game. Something like that would surely provide an experience that would more closely resemble what a future soldier might see in combat. Racing games could also benefit greatly by offering rear and possibly side view mirrors through Glass, so players don’t have to press buttons to look behind them.

Voices In Your Head

Master Chief has Cortana, Batman has Oracle, Frank from Dead Rising has Otis Washington. Disembodied voices through radio, cell phones, and telepathy aren’t uncommon in video games. They offer guidance, observations, updates, and one-liners and can often take away the feeling of loneliness when trekking through a game. But what if they really could talk into your ear instead of through the main speakers? Furthermore, what if you could talk back? Players would probably have to stick to a list of preset commands until technology reaches a point where natural speech can be recognized. You could ask characters for status updates, run a scan of the area, or call in an airstrike on a location. Hopefully, it won’t be too much like using Siri, and games would employ a more personalized experiences. There is a great deal of potential. The character’s face could appear on the Google Glass screen as though it were a video call, and react as you change things in the world, like fix a power generator or rile up a giant monster that shakes the entire facility.

Multiplayer Coordination

Players don’t have to limit the experience to communicating with virtual characters. Google Glass has the potential to be an extremely powerful tool for multiplayer games, especially ones that require a degree of strategy and planning. Imagine the level of coordination between teammates if they could see through each others’ eyes. A team could have a tremendous advantage in a game like the upcoming Rainbow Six: Siege, where a team could split up and breach a map from two locations so they can meet in the middle. The screen wouldn’t have to rotate between perspectives. It could stick with the team leaders’ POV until the player swipes to change it. Players might gain similar advantages in games like Battlefield, Splinter Cell, The Division and a host of other cooperative games that require a high degree of team coordination. In the case of Division, players could get a sky’s eye view by tapping into the Companion Drone’s view through Glass. Similarly, players can keep an on eye on remote camera feeds in Splinter Cell using Glass.

Live Game Walkthroughs

Friends can set up Hangout session and help each other out through tough areas of a game with a live real-time walkthrough. If that isn’t possible, then at least it would be easier to load up a YouTube video walkthrough and watch it more conveniently than glancing back and forth from game to computer/tablet screen, using Alt-Tab, turning the Steam overlay on and off for its web browser. An obvious extension of the live walkthrough is remotely coaching players to help them improve their skills.

Quick Access to Information

The ultimate use of the second screen for is an app that uses Glass’s camera to recognize what you’re seeing in the game. Then the app could act similarly to Amazon’s X-ray feature for movies so that developers could include bonus commentary and tips. The app could bring up the game encyclopedia, like Mass Effect’s Codex, to provide background information for the different creatures, technology, environments and characters you encounter without having to break from playing the game. It could also be easily integrated with games like Watch Dogs to display information screens when you scan people.

Mini-Games and Alerts

It can get annoying if your character has to completely lose touch with the world around him to interact with a mini-game, which could leave them vulnerable to a surprise attack. An obvious solution is to play mini-games, like the hacking challenges from Watch Dogs, through Glass. However, trying to see things on a tiny screen might not be a great gaming experience. A better alternative would be a visual alert or sound to let you know when someone is getting close or you’ve been discovered. Integrating the Glass screen as a second screen could greatly improve immersion. Think countdown timers while defusing a bomb. Glass could also provide subtle alerts when secrets and collectibles are nearby. The applications are almost limitless. Glass could become a lie detector in games during interrogation scenes, which would fit neatly into sci-fi games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Conclusion

Headsets like the Oculus VR completely removes the user from reality to immerse gamers into a virtual world. What makes Google Glass integration unique is that it allows increased interaction between the real world and the virtual world and communication between players. This interplay opens up a whole new level interaction and a different sense of immersion. It all depends on how well Glass catches on, but this could be the kind of subtle technology that changes the game.

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