Pulse Cannon

Hello once again and welcome to the Pulse Cannon. Last week I discussed my disgust about the bundling policies of EB and Gamestop regarding the next generation console launches, starting with the Xbox 360 and presumably continuing on with the PS3 and Revolution. This week I’m going to look at the future of gaming, or at least where I’d like to see it headed.

The future is in voice, to put it simply. For far too long gamers have been stuck with using our hands and occasionally feet to enter commands. This has served us well, but frankly its getting tiresome. Especially when the technology exists to further our own little art form. Voice recognition has been on the edges of computer technology for some time now, but nothing is making it mandatory. There was a time when the mouse wasn’t needed for computers, but could you picture using a computer today without one?

There have been some small steps towards using voice recognition in games. Certain PC games like Unreal Tournament actually interface with voice recognition software on the Windows platform, allowing for less weapons management with the hands and more splat with the guns. Other games, like Manhunt and Lifeline, have taken the first baby steps on the console side towards using voice interaction. Manhunt wasn’t really a voice recognition thing, it was more like make any kind of noise and it will get noticed. Lifeline was a game far ahead of its time. You sat in a control room and used voice commands to tell someone how to accomplish their goals. The only problem with Lifeline was the recognition software just wasn’t up to the task the game sets out for you, causing frustration upon frustration.

More recently EA has actually gone and shocked me by getting into the innovation business. Their latest title in the NASCAR series allows you the gamer to manage a large number of options with a headset and microphone. You wear the headset and hear your pit crew talking to you, and during the race you can tell your team how to prepare the next pit stop, tell a fellow racer that you’re sorry for scratching their paint job, turn off the HUD, change cameras, any number of things. Nintendo has used the microphone in their DS to allow for interaction with your dog in Nintendogs. Puppy wandering off? Call its name! Watch it return to you, tail wagging. It’s still limited, but these are the kinds of things I want to see in my games. I’ll stop talking about NASCAR here because I’m supposed to be reviewing it, but you see where I’m going with this?

Imagine a flight sim like Ace Combat where you are being directed to a target by people in an AWACs aircraft hundreds of miles away. You get that already over the speakers. But what if you were the AWACs operator? Or suppose you were playing a game like Metal Gear Solid, and you had to input a voice command to unlock your handheld computer, or god forbid if they actually make you talk during those long needless conversations. And what if they allowed you to talk or to tell them to shut up because you are trying to save the world at the minute?

Gamers have long been at the bleeding edge of technology. PC gamers have helped to create better video, audio and input devices. They have, along with console gamers, helped to take a product that nobody really saw a use for and established it as an entirely new form of communication with VOIP.

Its time for the games industry to take that next big step and make voice recognition a more integral part of game play. Show the world what it can do, and watch the possible uses for it explode. “Pulse Cannon offline.”