ARToolKit now available under LGPL v3.0 for free use

ARToolKit now can be used for free in commercial applications under LGPL v3.0. When working on James Burkes PhD, which focused on AR for games based upper arm stroke rehab, we found that ARToolKit was easily the best tool (and was free for academic use). After completion of the PhD we looked into commercialising the games but the cost of the commercial license was a real problem going forward with this. The new license terms are obviously very helpful for people wanting to harness state-of-the-art AR technologies within their software and Apps.

Distributed Scene Graph

Just came across this interesting video on distributing multiplayer game processing across a network. Relates quite closely to what we trying to achieve on a current PhD project. Microsoft have demonstrated an example of cloud processing using Azure in Titanfall and other games but its not quite the same.

A prevailing approach by some leading games companies/publishers is to stream gameplay from the cloud, e.g. Onlive and Gaikai, in a technological approach that could be described as streaming interactive gameplay. The game is processed in the cloud and rendered gameplay screens are streamed to client machines. The advantage of the approach is that client machines do not have the so powerful and it may be more energy efficient (in global terms). An obvious disadvantage is that QoS and QoE is dependant on the quality of network. Shinra, a Square Enix company, recognise this issue but are building their mmo engine for a future (faster) network! Article here.

Recent research papers

It’s been a busy period of research with the research exercise coming towards a conclusion and new grant opportunities appearing. Barry Herbert is in the last stages of writing up his PhD but we managed to get a paper out the door and accepted for ITAG. This paper presents results of an experiment which investigates user typology for the gamification of a virtual learning environment. We show that it is possible to distinguish between variation in the ways that learners can be motivated to engage within learning processes and content.

  • Barry Herbert, Darryl Charles, Adrian Moore, Therese Charles, “An Investigation of Gamification Typologies for Enhancing Learner Motivation”, ITAG: Interactive Technologies and Games – Education, Health and Disability, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, 2014

Extending these ideas and applying them within a rehabilitation context we developed a new framework called PACT (people, aesthetics, context, technology) and we are looking forward to presenting a short paper on this at ICDVRAT. PACT has an implicit focus on participatory design and involvement with all of the relevant stakeholders from the beginning of a rehabilitation design process. The emphasis on gamification within the PACT framework has a number of significant advances. Firstly, the outcome of a gamification process may not be an obvious game but may simply result in the addition of fun feedback (e.g. points and badges) to a non-game context (e.g. physical movements round the home), could recommend the use of gaming hardware in a non-game context (e.g. digital painting), or the use of game worlds to immerse and inspire (e.g. walks with friends in virtual game worlds). Secondly, new advanced gamification approaches can help tailor system design to account for diversity in motivation between different people.

  • Darryl Charles, Suzanne McDonough, “A Participatory Design Framework for the Gamification of Rehabilitation Systems”, ICDVRAT: The 10th International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technologies 2014.

Craig Hull is just about to start his second year of his PhD and he recently presented his first paper (below). I’m particularly pleased that we received generally positive feedback on this approach and that we managed to get the word FRAGED into the title – Babylon 5 :-). We should see if we can get “smeg” and “frak” into future paper titles.

  • Craig Hull, Darryl Charles, Philip Morrow, Gerard Parr, “FRAGED: A Framework for Adaptive Game Execution and Delivery to Improve the Quality of Experience in Network Aware Games”, PGNET 2014.

We also just received news that our research with the Leap Motion controller for use in stroke rehabilitation was accepted for publication in Jatech. This technology has a lot of potential and we need to try to find some funding to be able to take it forward.

  • Charles, D.K., Pedlow, K., McDonough, S., Shek, K. & Charles, T. (2014). Close Range Depth Sensing Cameras for Virtual Reality based Hand Rehabilitation. Journal of Assistive Technologies

In September Dominic Holmes is starting a PhD with us at Ulster to investigate the use of modern game hardware and software to create tailored and motivating exercise programmes to help prevent falls. He will focus on adherence to exercise as a measurement of success and investigate variation in engagement mechanisms between users. The fun part will be a chance to work with Oculus Rift VR (or similar) , Leap/Kinect/Myo controllers and the Omni-Treadmill. Dominic has been shortlisted for the Creative Buzz Award for his excellent work on his final year project. He designed and made a feedback jacket for connecting to a computer game via an Arduino microcontroller – it helps provide a more immersive gaming experience by supplying haptic feedback around a player’s body, e.g. when shot a player will feel the motion of an actuator in the area of the body that correlates to where they have been shot in-game. We hope that he will be able to use some of these approaches in his PhD. Dominic will be at Culture Tech in Derry/Londonderry in September for a 4 day bootcamp – I will put more information up about this closer to the event.

Presenting our Oculus and Leap Motion Rehabilitation Research at the Joint Higher Education exhibition in Stormont

Yesterday Suzanne McDonough, Katy Pedlow (Health and Rehabilitation Sciences) and I had the privilege of presenting our recent research on the Oculus Rift VR headset and Leap Motion Controller to our local politicians at Stormont. Some pictures below.

We have been progressing from our previous simulations of traditional rehabilitation tasks using the Leap Controller to investigating and uncovering the best practices in interaction design among recent commercial releases of software. We are keen to map clinical requirements for rehabilitation exercises to existing games that contain similar movements in their controller design. We are also learning from best practices for the design of our own rehabilitation games – the main issues issue with commercial games is (obviously) that they are not tailored to treatments and are not usually adaptive to individual requirements. During this phase of our investigations we are also looking at whether the use of the Oculus Rift VR headset improves the usability and function of our rehabilitation games.  In particular can it help patients with depth perception as they reach out in a virtual 3d scene?

The demos generated a lot of interest as they have when I have presented the technology in our uni open days (see bottom picture) and also when I recently visited a local primary school.

Playing with programming the Leap Motion and Oculus Rift together

I had a couple of hours this afternoon to be able to make some progress learning how to use Oculus Rift and the Leap Motion controller together.

Its not hard when you know how and in about 30 mins I connected an Oculus camera to one of the flying Leap Motion samples. Orientation of palms used to steer ship.

I’m just getting a feel for what works and how to program these technologies. I’m not sure we can use the Oculus in our games for rehab work (certainly in games with movement of the camera) due to vertigo and similar issues, but its really interesting and fun to work with.


Completed ICO … just took me 10 years and 6.5 hours!

I love this game, I bought it for the PS2 around 2002 and again for the PS3 (for the better graphics) in 2012. I’ve referenced it in my teaching often, but embarrassingly I hadn’t actually got round to finishing it. Ico is still playable after all this time, it has a perfect balance between puzzle solving, exploration, story and action. It ended quite abruptly but I enjoyed the end, particularly the bit where you get to play a little longer after the credits! I think a proper sequel could be fantastic and I think it could make for a nice indie-style movie, so long as they kept it about the three main characters.

I was sparked into action by Edge magazine’s readers games of a lifetime (see below). I have all of these games in the house (except Golden Eye). I agree that they are all good games and I would like to try and finish a few more before the end of the year – I hate unfinished games! I’ve already completed Portal, Bioshock (except the last boss!), Ico, The last of us, Halo, and RE4. A few like Dark Souls I’ll never complete and I’ve had enough of World of Warcraft.

20 – World of Warcraft
19 – Marjoa’s Mask
18 – Vice City
17 – Chrono Trigger
16 – Portal
15 – Red Dead Redemption
14 – Bioshock
13 – Ico
12 – The Last of Us
11- Dark Souls
10 – Super Mario Galaxy
9 – Metal Gear Solid
8 – Shadow of the Colossus
7 – Goldeneye
6 – Halo
5 – RE4
4 – Final Fantasy VII
3 – Half Life 2
2 – Super Mario 64
1 – Ocarina of Time