The startup playing with your emotions
Immersely wants to put gamers' smartwatches to a clever new use
Today we’re diving into the world of emotion tracking in the games industry, as we take a look at Immersely.
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Immersely wants to track your emotions to help the games industry
There are few more emotional pastimes than gaming.
If I sit down with a game at the end of the day, I can feel happy about my achievements, amused by the scriptwriting, empathetic to the characters’ story… and absolutely furious at a frustrating piece of bad game design - all in the space of an hour.
It can be a rollercoaster.
Looking to harness these emotions to help developers make more successful games is Immersely, a startup using smartwatches to track how players feel as they play.
Goodness Akalazu is the founder of the Sheffield-based startup that has developed tech to collect biometric data from Wear OS smartwatches for Android phones, such as recent Google and Samsung watches.
Smartwatches were chosen as an easily available, widely owned way of collecting biometric data, and Akalazu says Apple Watch support is in the works.
The biometric activity is measured alongside data about what’s happening in the game, and what the player is doing. From there, Akalazu says, this data is fed through an A.I. model based on his academic research, to estimate what a player was feeling, alongside the context of why they were feeling that way.
“We build a map around the player's journey throughout the game; where you have lows and highs, and things [developers] could do to change that.”
And while right now this is all about tweaking a game’s design, Akalazu imagines a day when the data could be used to dynamically personalise games for each player on the fly as they play.
I’m reminded of my recent experience playing the (excellent) rhythm action game Hi-Fi Rush. In one part of the game, it took me ages to figure out the exact button inputs and timing required. All that time, my frustration levels rose.
A game that could tweak itself to my specific personal reaction to any specific situation would be a compelling proposition.
Getting gamers on board
Immersely refines its analysis model, it wants to collect more emotion data. So it’s about to launch a product for gamers.
Immersely Labs is aimed at game streamers–those people who build up a big following of fans that watch them play games and chat on platforms like Twitch–and games vloggers. By monitoring their emotions, the software automatically creates video clips of their most emotional moments, so they can be shared.
“After hours of streaming you don't have to go through all the clips. We get them for you, you can do final edits, and then push it online.”
The startup is also working on what Akalazu describes as an “A.I. commentator” that talks to the player, reacting to their emotions.
From robots to emotions
Immersely is rooted in the research Akalazu did as part of his Masters degree, although he started out wanting to be a robotics engineer. Studying robotics at university, he was introduced to A.I.
Then, while studying for a second Masters degree at Kingston University in London, this time in Mechatronics, he came across the idea of using data to predict emotions.
Identifying the commercial opportunity for using this in the games industry, he got stuck into research work.
“I was able to prove that using biometric information, you can actually build out models where you can predict the user’s emotions.”
Akalazu planned to go down the PhD route many founders featured in this newsletter do, honing the technology in academia before bringing it to market. But an offer of investment from Post Urban Ventures took him straight into startup mode instead.
Immersely has been in development for around a year, with a team of five in house, plus assistance from a design consultancy. Akalazu himself wears many hats, serving as CEO while handling many of the software engineering and data science tasks.
Immersely is gearing up to officially launch its Immersely Labs desktop app this week through Overwolf’s app store, along with a web-based version, so game players can record their emotions.
Akalazu says Immersely is in talks with games companies about integrating its tech with their development pipelines.
“If we're able to prove that we can help streamers pinpoint the best emotional moments and then let them share them, that's where most of the proof will be.”
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