“Hyde”: Social Sensing Ideas In A Game

I noticed this kickstarter project, via Future of Story Telling, a live, walk in Augmented Reality game, “Hyde”.

You’re taking part in experimental trials of a new drug developed by the Jekyll Corporation. It’s designed to modify the capabilities of the human body, giving you the power to control your environment simply by controlling your physical state (your pulse rate, breathing, posture etc).“

 But, referencing Mr. Hyde, “You begin to realise that someone – or something – is working against you. You’ll need to stay calm to retain control of your surroundings.”

To navigate the maze, and successfully escape, you need to keep calm because the doors can sense you. Besides conventional puzzle solving, some doors require that “the players must control their body state to open the doors: may be hold their breath, blow forcefully or lower their heart rates.”

From the kickstarter, it looks like this is basically using the same technology as commercial fitness trackers, wired in to their maze controller. “In Hyde we are connecting people’s bodies to the world around them in a highly novel way.”

This is kind of cool, though I’m not sure I would find it very interesting after a few minutes. Indeed, the kickstarter is seeking funding and testers to play test the concept, to find out how well it works as a game.

While the game itself doesn’t excite me too much (I don’t especially enjoy horror flicks, why would I want to be in one?), it does make me think a bit. In particular, this game illustrates how “fitness bands” have potentially profound social uses—‘lie detector’, stress / fear detector, etc.

In this case, instead of self-monitoring to reduce stress, the technology can be used by the game to manipulate stress and the actions of the players. If they want to, the game environment could detect which stimuli were most frightening for an individual player, and tweak them to crank up the tension, and then release it. I’m pretty sure this would work, though the ethics are certainly open to question.

I would note that this idea could go farther, to implement more effective punishment and interrogation, i.e., torture. The victim is equipped with fitness band, which reports real time the stress levels. Rather than rely on the famously emotionally blinded intuitions of human interrogators, controllers can hane an app that “personalizes” the pressure on the captive. No hiding your fear or bluffing, when the sensors know just how terrified you are.

Unfortunately, this seems totally feasible to me. I don’t like it one bit, but I would be surprised if it doesn’t become common practice. Prisons and hospitals will issue mandatory “wellbeing monitors”, which will be used for inmate control, and, when desired, punishments.

On a slightly more positive, but still cree-e-epy, the signals also detect interest and arousal. For example, groups like Disney might experiment with versions of this ideas to make sure that everyone is happy in the happy kingdom.

In personal situations, there could be an app that could give you realtime feedback (and assistance) on your pitch, flirting, or even foreplay. In this situation, getting “naked” would mean stripping off your connection to the sensor net to interact unaugmented. (It gets even more interesting if both of you are similarly augmented.)

While on this theme, what happens if someone hacks in and hijacks this app? They could distort my readings, to mask or fake the emotions of my target. If the “scariness” is algorithmically determined, they could manipulate the results, leading to unintended and possibly dangerous situations (e.g., if the sensors show he isn’t unmoved, the system keeps ratcheting up the horror, even as he is melting down under the pressure).

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