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Gaming - Tactile effects library

For computer game players, two considerations predominate: realism and scoring. Progress in computer graphics, in sound, and now in touch--or force feedback, as it is known by the gaming community--are all aimed at increasing a player's feeling of "presence" in the game and improving his or her performance. Game developers create software that re-creates realistic environments and may now enrich their content with touch-enabled joysticks, wheels, gamepads, and mice.

Consider the kind of game in which a player explores a space in an attempt to shoot opponents before being shot. In this sort of game, players navigate by moving a mouse or a joystick. By strongly resisting movement or telegraphing impact, a force feedback device can notify a user that he has backed into a wall. The ability to feel a wall frees a retreating player to dedicate visual attention to scanning in other directions. A touch device may be used to signal hit direction. Such a device can also signal the presence of an opponent who is outside the player's visual field by moving sharply to indicate a near miss fired from the right or left.

For first-person shooters, intuitive information such as backing into a wall is easily simulated with an opposing force. Hit direction is better understood by applying a directional force rather than a showing a visual cue. Games already exist that provide a feeling for picking up game objects, firing weapons, riding trains, elevators and conveyors. New opportunities such as "feeling around in the dark", "tactile texturing", and countless others just wait for an aspiring game developer to implement them.

In driving games, a touch-enabled steering wheel instantly notifies the driver that the car's tires are slipping on ice, giving the driver time to compensate and avoid a spin or crash. TouchSense wheels give game drivers a realistic sensation of the surface the car is driving on: smooth or bumpy pavement, gravel, grass, etc. By telegraphing changes in the driving surface just as a real wheel would, the TouchSense wheel gives a more realistic experience and helps the driver achieve the maximum speed consistent with the tires' ability to maintain cohesion.

Force feedback increases the sense of presence in flight games by allowing players to feel engines start and run roughly until warmed up. Feel the roughness of the runway followed by the smoothness of lift-off. Feel the recoil when firing a gun. In the same games, force feedback improves player performance by informing a player when her plane is hit from behind. Without force feedback, such attacks are imperceptible until the plane is so damaged that an instrument senses a problem, which is usually too late. Staring at instruments is a good way to miss important actions occurring outside the plane. In games, as in other applications, adding a sense of touch conveys information to users that cannot practically be communicated by visual or audio feedback.

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