We recently spoke to gamer, streamer, and psychology Master’s graduate Perri Karyal about all things interactive gaming.
We also discussed Perri’s recent visit to the EarSwitch® HQ to test out our hands-free EarControl™ technology, which allows people to “click” by ear rumbling –tensing a tiny muscle in the ear.
Find out what differentiates EarControl™ from electroencephalogram (EEG) “mind control”, how biometric readings could shape generative AI, and Perri’s predictions for the future of gaming.
What first motivated you to explore hands-free gaming?
I accidentally stumbled upon it!
I used EEG during my Master’s degree, because I did psychology. Initially I just used EEG devices for looking at my brain activity, having it displayed while I played horror games when streaming. Then I found that you can use the software to remember patterns in brain activity.
If it can remember the activity, you can code it up eventually, and then oh! – you have a virtual game controller.
You recently visited the EarSwitch® HQ to try out EarControl™, our in-ear biometric control and sensor technology.
Can you tell us about your experience?
I loved it. First of all, everyone was really nice – which makes a difference! It was amazing seeing all of their prototypes too.
Nick* talked me through how EarControl™ works, and then after putting the device in my ear, showed me the app you can use to control everything.
I was kind of taken aback by how beautifully flawless it was.
EarControl™ itself worked really, really well, which I was surprised about. When I use EEG there’s always a bit of a delay; it doesn’t always put the input in the way you want, and sometimes it puts an input in when you don’t want it to. But this was so easy to control – and the delay was basically nothing.
We even played Flappy Bird with it!
*EarSwitch® founder and CEO, Dr Nick Gompertz.
What did using EarControl™ technology feel like?
It felt fairly strange at first because you’ve really got to get it in your ear. And then of course, seeing the inside of your ear is always a little bit alarming! But once you get over that it’s really comfortable. It was just like an earbud.
I didn’t even realise that ear rumbling as a thing, so I was praying that I could do it! The latency is nothing; for some reason, it always knows when you’re ear rumbling. It’s intuitive, too. It blows my mind.
I think if I had another few hours of playing with it, it would just become another finger.
This isn’t the first time you’ve experimented with hands-free gaming. You’re known for completing Elden Ring with an EEG device, which allowed you to track spikes in your brain’s electrical activity.
Could you talk us through the main differences between using an EEG device and EarControl™ when gaming?
The EEG requires a lot of training beforehand with mental commands and focus, so that it can work for everyone. I’ve spent about 250 hours making sure it knows exactly what my pattern of brain activity looks like for each thing I’m visualising. But of course, EEG is all about mind control, and you can have four mental commands and emotion readings – so it is a completely different system.
Because EarControl™ is simpler than that, it can pick up that signal for everyone, all of the time, regardless of anything. It doesn't require any training. You just put it in and oh! It works.
EarControl™ is much more accessible and much more user-friendly.
If you’d like to learn more about Perri’s thoughts on accessibility in gaming, check out the rest of our interview here.
You mentioned an interest in generative AI in gaming. Could you tell us your thoughts on this topic?
I think the way that gaming is going now, it’s all for immersion. We’re trying to get as immersed as we possibly can.
With EEG, you can see stress, engagement, excitement...stuff like that. Imagine you were playing a horror game, but it got harder every single time you were stressed out or afraid... that would be pretty fun! It could be a really awesome, immersive experience.
With EarControl™ being able to track gamers’ real-time health metrics, how do you think it could support generative AI in gaming?
Well, we know that heart rate is linked, somewhat, to how afraid or stressed out you are, so there’s that. We could use that as a metric to increase or decrease the difficulty of certain games.
With EarControl™ biometric sensors, you could track everything you’d need to in order to tell how you’re “feeling” with just one tiny earbud device.
Do you have any predictions about the future of interactive, hands-free gaming?
I think everything we’re angling towards is in the direction of immersion. And to be fully immersive, you’ve got to work on VR. If you can just put on some glasses, and do everything with your body, then that’s amazing.
You’ve had a really exciting few years. What’s next for you?
Next, I’m working on a mind control VR project and I’ll hopefully have more involvement with EarSwitch®!
I’m also working with a research group in Germany. We’ve got a few other psychology experiments happening so we can look at the effects of different things. For instance, we’ve got an isolation project, we’re working on other kinds of controllers with singing, and so on.
Those are my main focuses for now!
The future of interactive gaming with EarSwitch®
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Perri for both experimenting with EarControl™ and for speaking to us about the experience.