Student lends hand to video game industry
- Jason Skowronski, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is working with a team of other students to create an interactive, glove-like video game controller.
- “We are in talks with investors, there are a lot of potential applications for this technology,” Skowronski said.
URBANA, Ill. – Video game controllers have evolved from five-button square boxes to complex conglomerations of joysticks and direction pads, and soon the next level of controller may be on the market: a glove with sensors attached to it so you can almost reach into the action of the game.
Jason Skowronski, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is working with a team of other students to create such a glove. With the invention and game interface software, game players could control elements of the game by punching, flicking or waving their hands. The device could also be used to translate sign language from deaf people to hearing people.
“This year, we assembled a team of people from across campus, electrical engineering, marketing, and accounting, so that we have people who understand all the different [parts of the business],” Skowronski said.
Skowronski and fellow ECE student Shivani Jain started working on the glove as their senior design project almost two years ago. The project won the executive summary round of the Cozad Business Plan Competition in the fall. The competition is sponsored by the Technology Entrepreneur Center at the University, and has expanded in recent years to include executive summary, full business and open divisions. Cash prizes are awarded to the winner of each division in the spring competition.
“We are in talks with investors, there are a lot of potential applications for this technology,” Skowronski said.
He mentioned translating sign language through an onboard device as one possible application, as well as uses in construction or virtual reality. Skowronski and Jain started working on the glove with Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Scott Carney as their senior design class project. The project won the instructors award for being Carney’s favorite of the semester.
“A lot of people go into senior design with no idea what they’re doing, but if you go in there with an idea you can really do something,” Skowronski said.
Skowronski has recently constructed a working model of the glove, but hopes to be able to create a prototype with more plastic and fewer wires which could snag. He also wants to create a fabric covering over the entire glove to make it look better and protect the sensors. The next big issue he will have to deal with is finding a way to make the glove affordable to the general public.
“We want to get all the wires down to pieces of plastic so it would mostly just be two pieces of plastic, that would be the most economical as well,” he said. “We are hoping to be able to retail them for about $99.”
The models of the glove currently being made cost up to $1,500. Skowronski is looking to partner with an electronic gaming company to develop video games that show off the glove. He and his team hope to start with the video game application and pursue other applications later. The video game market, he said, has well-known developers and is likely to yield higher profits than other niche markets. Skowronski also hopes that he will be able to make the glove compatible with the new Nintendo Wii so that it can be used on many different games.
“To be able to demonstrate a working model of something like this is just an amazing experience,” Skowronski said.