Skip to main content
The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
Technology

Pacman breaks out of the arcade

By Simon Hooper for CNN

story.pacman.jpg
How "Human Pacman" sees the world.
SPARK
Find out how tech is changing our lives  Click here
ON CNNI TV
Click here  for Spark show times on CNN International.
YOUR SAY
Send your thoughts on this story to spark@cnn.com or read what other viewers have to say
VOTE
What has been the most significant invention or discovery of the past 50 years?  VOTE NOW
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Spark

(CNN) -- A group of Singapore-based researchers are taking Pacman out of the arcade hall of fame and setting him loose on the streets.

The virtual reality gaming system allows players to become the insatiable cookie-munching hero of the classic computer game or one of his ghostly nemeses, simply by donning a backpack and a pair of goggles.

But instead of becoming a yellow blob trapped in a low-resolution two-dimensional maze, "Human Pacman" can roam freely through real environments.

The system was designed by a team led by Dr. Adrian Cheok of the Mixed Reality Lab at the National University of Singapore, using ubiquitous computing technology.

By combining wireless local area networking with Bluetooth and GPS technology, head-mounted displays and inertia sensors, Cheok and his team were able to bring Pacman to life.

"The Human Pacman is basically a wearable computer with a head mounted display and various sensors which is sensing my body's position and as well as the head orientation so I know exactly where I am and what I'm looking at," explains Cheok.

"So when we do this we can augment the real world with the virtual world, so the Pacman world becomes part of the real world. I can see cookies in front of me and I can collect them by walking through them."

In keeping with the spirit of the original game, Pacman can turn the tables on his pursuers by picking up power pills, in this case small Bluetooth-enabled boxes placed around the actual physical gaming environment.

Human Pacman's efforts to find cookies and avoid ghosts can also be influenced by the input of online helpers who are able to see a visualization of the game on a computer screen and send messages to the player, or to his pursuers.

"There's a connection between me and someone on the Internet, so that person is kind of like my helper," said Cheok.

"They'll type in messages saying, 'Hey look, the ghost is around the block so you better turn west.'"

Whereas traditional computer gaming technology has been screen-based and mostly static, Human Pacman reflects a growing demand for more physical and interactive gaming, as demonstrated by the success of dance mat-style games.

By also incorporating elements of role-playing and cooperative strategy, Cheok hopes Human Pacman could also promote a more sociable gaming experience.

"The reason we invented this game is because current computer gaming really doesn't promote social interaction between people," said Cheok.

"The game is designed so it actually promotes playing with your friends in a very social way and a physical way. We're combining sports, social interaction and computer entertainment."

Beyond entertainment, Human Pacman's seamless merging of the virtual and real worlds has more serious possibe uses, as evidenced by the fact that the project has been financed by Singapore's military.

"We're looking at next generation soldier platforms where they'll have kind of a smart suit," said Cheok. "As the soldier moves out into the battlefield he'll get live information directly into his viewpoint using these specialized head-mounted displays."

For now however, Cheok and his team are working on developing a mobile-phone based commercially-available version of Human Pacman.

"We're aiming to take Human Pacman to more mobile devices," he said. "Within two years we'll be able to see full commercial Pacman-type games on the mobile phones."


Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Burgers, lattes and CD burners
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
Search JobsMORE OPTIONS


 

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.