Report: Valve experiments with eye tracking and sweat response

Posted by Shane McGlaun

Thinking about the staff roster at a major game developer such as Valve, I would expect to see computer programmers, graphic artists, and all sorts of other executives and workers on the list.

What I wouldn't expect to see on the list of employees is an experimental psychologist. Yet, Valve does in fact have an experimental psychologist on staff and he is working to help the company improve future video games.

Valve's experimental psychologist is named Mike Ambinder, and he recently talked about some of the work devs are doing to incorporate biofeedback technology into future video games, including eye motion controls and perspiration-based gaming adjustments.

According to Ambinder, test subjects playing titles like Left 4 Dead had their sweat production monitored and values were assigned to measure just how much the gamer was responding to the action on screen. The data was then analyzed to help designers decide how to modify and improve the experience for players.

One of the tests gave players 4 minutes to shoot 100 enemies. Gamers who stayed calm were able to progress normally. However, participants who became nervous had less time to shoot. The eye tracking technology was tested using the popular game Portal 2. The developers say that the eye tracking technology works very well with the game, but currently have to separate aiming in viewpoint system to make it work.