Who would have thought, before the Nintendo Wii came along, that the idea of controlling a video game by waving a lump of plastic around in the air like a deranged loon would gain such mass appeal so quickly? Which is why I am not writing off the latest thinking in video game control that could be heading for the Wii, interactive underwear.
Jennifer Chowdhury has been demonstrating her innovative idea of building game controllers into knickers, boxer shorts and even bars to pretty much anyone who will listen without falling to the floor in a fit of laughter. She says that the goal of her project, part of her thesis that started life as an exercise for networked objects, is to create objects that “challenge the traditional notions and orientation of video game play” and it has to be said she has achieved that OK.
After all, you will have to be really careful about who you invite over for a gaming session when that game is controlled by players physically touching each other in the underwear department. Even the invitation itself is probably best made to real close friends only, as you might feel uncomfortable asking strangers for a game of Pong in their panties.
I guess Pong was chosen because control is about as simple as you can get, and Jennifer admits that mapping the game controls to the first device, a bra, was simple enough: “touching the left breast made the pong paddle go left and the right breast made the paddle go right.” This has developed into two controllers, both with six sensors a piece. For the men it is the ladies bra, which they do not wear but rather stand behind their partner to control. For the ladies it is a pair of boxer shorts with strategically placed buttons. You can see a demonstration of the controllers in action by way of a video that Jennifer has put up on her site here.
This is not the first time that Pong has been the focus of strange but true computing crossover devices. I am reminded of the Pong Dress which was designed by Moswotzer and Jahrmann and which uses the dress itself as the playing field. Essentially though it is all a bit Heath-Robinson in approach, with a set of white LED’s shining through the front of the dress and the gaming controlled via a couple of retro-consoles hooked up at hip level.
I am not convinced, however, that either will be a cure for that male gamer disease of widowhood where wives and partners are abandoned in favor of a gaming session. It’s a noble thought, that couples can get intimate during a game of Pong, doing something together, keeping that relationship fresh. But the real world truth is that if I asked my wife if she fancied a quick game which involved my Wii and a joystick in my undies then the chances are I would be sleeping in the spare room for a week.