April 3, 2012 at 5:35 PM ET
Non-traditional methods of controlling games are all the rage in Japan these days. Sega made headlines last year with "Toirettsu" or "Toylet," a game that drunken male patrons can play in the men’s room, since it's entirely controlled via one's urine stream. Meanwhile, a just-unveiled project by researchers at The University of Electro-Communications near Tokyo will soon have players using their tongues on the Kinect.
The new method of interfacing with a game was first highlighted by DigInfo TV:
As both the video and accompanying article explain, it is designed primarily to help train people who have oral motor function disorders that affect their ability to speak or swallow.
The prototype works, but isn't perfect, mostly due to detection being less than precise. Given that the Kinect, primarily works with exaggerated body movements, such as waving ones' arms around, it's impressive that researchers were able to detect something as small and precise as a tongue in the first place.
In addition to its use as a tool for physical therapy, it's conceivable that such a method of control can open up video games to an audience that otherwise cannot enjoy them, such as paraplegics. A much earlier example can be traced back to 1989, when Nintendo offered the Hands Free Controller for their Nintendo Entertainment System.
Not sold in stores but exclusively by the company, it's a device designed for those who cannot control their bodies from the neck down. The harness included a joystick designed to accommodate one's chin or tongue, plus a straw that detects suction. Blowing triggered the A button functionality, while sipping triggered the B button in games.
The device originally retailed for $120 and can still be found on eBay on occasion, going for between $600 and $800.
Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.