Miraisens transforms gaming: exciting haptics technology(1/3)

Visual and audio technology has rapidly evolved, allowing us to enjoy exhilarating games and movies. Now, with the haptic presentation of content available through haptic technology, attention is now focused on the use of more realistic content presentation. We present in a three-part series the details on the impact of and technology behind Miraisens’s 3DHaptics technology, which stands at the very forefront of this trend, and the paradigm shift it will bring.

Rapid gaming market growth through innovations in content presentation

In recent years, home video games with hyper-realistic visual content that make use of virtual reality (VR) technology are being released one after the other. In today’s video game industry, the focus of competition is on how realistic of a game can be made.

 According to Newzoo, a market research firm centered around the gaming and esports sector, the global market size of the game industry is already worth $159.3 billion (USD) as of 2020 and is expected to reach $200 billion (USD) by 2023. The game industry is an extremely attractive market, with high growth rates of 9% per year. This high growth is being driven by innovations in content presentation, with each game company competing fiercely in the development of technology to make content more realistic.

 Up until now, technologies for a realistic presentation of content, such as sophisticated 3D graphics, higher resolution, smoother image processing, and powerful audio technology, have been introduced back to back with each generation of game consoles. And with each of these generations, game content has emerged that took advantage of the potential of the high-performance consoles to keep players hooked. However, we are now also beginning to see signs of a standstill in the progress in methods of game content presentation. This is because there is a limit to the human ability to discern visual and audio detail, making it more and more difficult to surprise gamers with enhancements in the presentation of visual and audio content alone.

Nicole Lazzaro: “We need to use haptics to pave the way towards a new and improved sense of realism.”

One of the visionaries of the American game industry, Nicole Lazzaro, CEO of XEODesign, has stated the following.

Games are a lucrative $159.3 billion a year industry in 2020 ($200B in 2023). Games with its 9% year over year growth is a market driven by innovation. To stay competitive, game companies need to innovate to deliver better games each and every year. Games are the most technical entertainment medium and hardware and software improvements with each console cycle are baked into the business model and slate of releases. Innovation is the life blood of the games industry. Game developers have to keep pace. The media fidelity and resolution of game experiences will continue to increase over the next 5 years.

Better rendering technologies, more resolution, and more gameplay innovation are all needed to deliver more realism and increase the fun factor. Emotional design crafting player emotions continues to be a big trend for 2020 and the next 5 years. Games with broader emotional palettes engage and retain players more and are more entertaining. Games that tell better stories and elicit deeper emotions reach wider audiences.

XEODesign CEO Nicole Lazzaro

Game developers worldwide are focused on increasing immersion. Each year the industry must innovate to deliver better games than the year before.
• Immersion
• Storytelling
• Compelling reasons to upgrade to new platforms and new gaming consoles.
• Next-generation consoles are promising next-generation haptics. Shifting from a rotation rumble to more nuanced. It’s one of the primary promises. 
• For Virtual Reality games, the haptics are key to immersion.
• All of these will require developer friendly editing tools.
Other trends affecting game industry are AI and better rendering techniques.

Nicole Lazzaro

XEODesign CEO. Nicole Lazzaro, is a leading American game industry expert who has had a tremendous impact on the game industry through the publication of whitepapers such as “Why we Play Games” and “Fun Meter”. She leads XEOPlay, a pioneering open-source project that aims to unearth human potential, create motivation, and make a difference in real life with fun games. A frequent speaker at gaming and other events, she was also recently named one of the “top 20 women working in video games”.

Haptics is a means of stimulating players’ sense of touch*1 and makes them feel the movement of an object through sensations they feel on their skin applied through game controller operations like vibrations (haptics sensation). Implementation of this approach to game content presentation makes it possible to execute effective storytelling that increases the player’s immersion in the world of the game and lets them feel the actions of their character on their fingertips as they make their way through the story.

*1 The sense of touch is one of the five senses in the human body. Strictly speaking, this is a general term for a variety of sensations that can be felt on the skin, including the “sense of force”, which is the sensation of being pulled or pushed, the “sense of pressure”, which is the sensation of coming in contact with something and its hardness and softness, and the “sense of touch”, which is the sensation of surface texture. This is synonymous with “haptics”.

Haptics sensations are one of the absolute key ways humans perceive the state of the objects near them and conditions in their environment. However, these forms of game content presentation cannot be used as extensively as visual and audio content. For games like shooting games, it has been the standard to use vibrations to stimulate the sense of touch as a means of expressing that the player has been hit by an enemy.

Haptics, now with more forms of content presentation than ever before, opens up new possibilities for content presentation to incite a new level of excitement in users. Haptics would, for example, be able to provide the player with the tactile sensations that come with pulling something, sensation of walking on sand or at water’s edge, the texture of brick and glass, the vibrations that come with shooting an arrow, the tremors in the ground from falling objects, and so on. New forms of content presentation like this are sure to be essential in the game industry where realism in games are sought after.

Realistic and immersive future content to be made possible through the incorporation of haptics

“3DHaptics” from Japan, enabling rich and realistic haptics presentation of content

In 2003, next-generation haptics technology that enables a wide variety of realistic haptics presentations of content was developed in Japan. 3DHaptics technology*3, developed by Dr. Norio Nakamura of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, is a type of haptics technology called “illusionary haptics*2” that implements brain science. For instance, technology like this would allow for stimulations from something such as the game controller to trick the player’s brain into feeling illusions that provide a diverse array of different realistic 3DHaptics experiences.

*2 Illusionary haptics is the sensation of distinct haptic force different from the actual, fine stimulations that were received. Illusionary haptics is created through slight stimulations applied to the skin which produce an illusion in the brain. The concept for this was proposed by Miraisens.

*3 3DHaptics is the technology that combines the three senses of force, pressure, and touch to produce special vibration patterns that facilitate a wide variety of realistic sensations.

The inventors of 3DHaptics technology, Dr. Norio Nakamura and his team, founded Miraisens in 2014 to develop 3DHaptics and provide other companies with the technology. Miraisens has honed 3DHaptics into a technology that can be applied to many electronic devices, including gaming consoles, and provides solutions to companies using this technology. In 2019, they became a part of Murata Manufacturing (hereinafter referred to as Murata). With the joining of Miraisens with their expertise on effective haptics implementation methods and usage together with Murata’s expertise in hardware design technology, which is essential for the practical implementation of advanced haptics, we are quickly approaching an era in which advanced haptics can be widely used.

Commentary from XEODesign's Nicole Lazzaro:

Miraisens 3DHaptics is a game changer. The unique sensations of directional force surface textures are amazingly realistic. With them, I can feel the difference between canvas, leather, zippers, brushed steel, rusted metal, terra cotta, water, oil, the list goes on.

In this series of articles, through an interview with the inventor of 3DHaptics technology, Nakamura, and Miraisens CEO Natsuo Koda, we introduce the features of 3DHaptics technology and the impact it has had in the presentation of richer, more realistic content.

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