Researchers bring gaming to autonomous vehicles

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A new study, led by researchers from the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics in collaboration with Waterloo’s Games Institute, details three games created for Level 3 and higher semi-autonomous vehicles. The researchers in Canada also made suggestions for many exciting types of in-car games for future exploration.

“As autonomous vehicles start to replace conventional vehicles, occupants will have much more free time than they used to,” said Matthew Lakier, a PhD student in Waterloo’s David R Cheriton School of Computer Science. “You could use time spent in commute to read a book, watch a movie, get ahead on work, or browse the internet.

“Still, not everything you do has to be isolated. You will be able to play games with other people in autonomous vehicles nearby when the car is driving itself. The games will be superimposed on the actual world, so drivers won’t have to take their eyes off the road.”

In developing the three games, the researchers first undertook an extensive literature review to identify gaps in previous research done about autonomous vehicles and found that not much attention has been given to cross-car games.

They then developed a virtual reality (VR) driving simulator to render the car cabin, outside environment, and roadway with artificially controlled cars and intelligent computer-controlled players. The VR driving simulator is designed as a framework to enable rapid prototyping of in-car games that leverage future technologies like V2V, full-window head-up displays, head tracking, and different input methods.

Twelve participants evaluated the three cross-car games. They played the games, with occasional take-over tasks, completed the Player Experience Inventory questionnaire to measure player experience, and answered questions in a semi-structured interview.

“Overall, the participants rated the games highly in immersion, there was a positive response to the incorporation of HUDs in the games, and the different game styles did not significantly impact the take-over task completion time. All games were popular for different reasons,” said Lakier, a member of Waterloo’s Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab.

“People were happy to play with strangers. So, for example, they said they could form impromptu relationships with other people on the road.”

The study, Cross-Car, Multiplayer Games for Semi-Autonomous Driving, was recently presented at the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play.

The study was co-authored by Lakier, his supervisor professor Daniel Vogel, associate professor Lennart Nacke, and Takeo Igarashi, a professor from the University of Tokyo.

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