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oculusriftSAN FRANCISCO – If trends continue, your next gaming accessory could be a head-mounted display, like the Oculus Rift. If Jesse Schell is right, one of your next purchases after that could be a robot.

HMDs like the Oculus Rift hold a lot of promise, but it’s challenging to use physical controllers with them because they’re designed to obscure your vision of the world around you and replace it with a virtual environment, said Schell, the CEO of Schell Games and author of “The Art of Game Design,” at the Casual Connect game conference today.

Schell sees a future in which robots create a dynamic touchable environment for players wearing HMDs. He compared it to a robotic game of patty-cake.

Jesse Schell
Jesse Schell

“I think that we are going to have robots that are tracking the position of our hands and our heads, just like the Kinect does, except that while our eyes are covered with our head-mounted display, they are going to be creating a physical world for us to reach out and touch.”

“So, for example, here you are in your HMD in your little treadmill, and then here’s your very friendly looking patty-cake robot, and the patty-cake robot, he’s got different textures up here that he moves into place when you reach up to feel along the wall or something. And he’s got a brick one and he’s got a wood one, so you can really feel these different textures.”

Schell went on to talk about how the same robots could simulate a dragon (he suggests a hair dryer) and make combat possible (hand the player a foam axe) in a world where gaming takes place in three-dimensional space.

I, for one, welcome our new patty-cake robot overlords.

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