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Iceni Magazine | April 2, 2020

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Can SkinTrack Turn Your Wrist into a Gaming Arena?

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-21-31-17
 “Skin” (CC BY 2.0) by diongillard

When it comes to gaming, mobile apps are now all the rage. From strategy games and shoot ’em ups to casino games, the entire entertainment spectrum is now covered. In fact, according to the stats, mobile gaming generated $17 billion in 2014 and by 2018 that figure is set to rise to around $44 billion.

By all measures, mobile gaming is now a huge industry and that means things are constantly evolving. Indeed, while it was once the case that players would download apps to their Smartphones, there is now the option to have some fun with a tablet. Although less popular than mobile apps, tablet games accounted for $7 billion of the $17 billion generated in 2014.

With people clearly loving the ability to game on the go, the next frontier for developers is wearable tech. The Apple Watch might not have sold as many units as some expected (it’s still selling 20,000 units each day in the US), but there’s no doubt a large part of our mobile activity will take place on our wrists in the coming years.

However, unlike a Smartphone or a tablet, swiping from left to right on a Smartwatch isn’t as easy. The reduced screen size means that controlling games is a lot tougher and that’s prompted some to suggest that wearable tech won’t suit the majority of gamers. Of course, for every problem there’s usually a solution and thanks to the tech geniuses at Carnegie Mellon University the limited screen size of watches might not matter.

After analysing the situation, the researchers at the University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute came up with SkinTrack. By combining sensors on the watch strap with a ring placed on the finger, SkinTrack basically allows users to control actions on the screen using the skin on their arm. Although it’s not quite ready for mass consumption, SkinTrack is being hailed as a major improvement for wearable tech and something that could make gaming possible.

Games SkinTrack Could Enhance

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-21-31-21 “Apple Watch” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by JonChanLondon

In fact, if we look at the current state of the mobile gaming market, there are plenty of ways SkinTrack could be used.

Mobile Slots

The iGaming industry is now worth $41 billion and much of this recent growth has been attributed to the increase in mobile apps. For example, Betway has crammed more than 100 HD casino games into its iOS app. Taking the top games from its online platform, such as Aces & Eights video poker, European Roulette and the Tomb Raider slot game, Betway has created an entertaining and optimised gaming app.

From this selection of games, it’s clear that slots would benefit immensely from SkinTrack technology. Thanks to recent developments in the industry, players can now pull and spin the latest mobile slots. Using this dynamic in conjunction with SkinTrack, players could swipe along their arm to initiate a spin.

Mobile Puzzle Games

Another genre within the mobile gaming community that could benefit from SkinTrack technology is logic and puzzle games like Angry Birds. Rovio’s smash hit game blazed a trail when it was first released in 2009 and the advent of SkinTrack could help reinvigorate interest in the franchise.

For those who don’t know, Angry Birds was all about catapulting birds at a series of objects. The pull and release mechanics melded perfectly with the mobile medium, but playing on a Smartwatch would be tough. Fortunately, SkinTrack gives you a much larger playing surface that’s perfect for stretching a catapult to its full capacity. In fact, with a few tweaks, a Smartwatch version of Angry Birds could actually become more of a hit than its mobile counterpart.

Mobile Shoot ‘Em Ups

Beyond the process of swiping along your arm to control a slot machine or catapult, SkinTrack could also be used to set up a secondary control pad. Complex war games like Call of Duty involve multiple movements, such as changing weapons, calling up maps and switching views, so a secondary way to control the action would be highly beneficial.

For example, a player using SkinTrack could tap certain sections of their arm to toggle through their arsenal of weapons. Similarly, they could lock and load their weapon in a much faster way by pulling back across their wrist.

As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless when it comes to SkinTrack and wearable tech. By opening up the gaming area beyond the screen should not only make games easier to control, but more engaging and, therefore, entertaining.

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