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Counter-Strike? Research?

Eight people in the twilight, starring at eight screens, hammering their keyboards, wielding their virtual guns … and all for research purposes?

Counter-Strike is a well-known team-based first-person shooter game. Since shooting is an essential part of the game play, it has a bad image in the public. Whenever a young gunman runs amok, Counter-Strike is the first to blame for many conservative politics.

But, games, such as Counter-Strike, can be fantastic research tools. Players need to process a large amount of information as quickly as possible to be successful. For user interface researchers, this comes in handy when novel interface shall be tested in high cognitive workload situations.

In our previous work we had developed a tactile user interface that allowed sensing the location of people via the sense of touch. To test this user interface we integrated it into Counter-Strike. It gives the wearer a sense of where the team mates are at any time.

The direction of the team mate is indicated by where the vibration occurs. The distance is indicated by the number of pulses.


We conducted a study where two teams of participants compete against each other. The teams where alternately equipped with the tactile location sensing system. We found that the tactile location sensing system increased the team’s situation awareness and its performance. Despite the games high cognitive demands the participants were able to interpret the tactile cues.

And the best is … this project scored a publication at the most prestigious scientific conference on human-computer interaction: the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI).

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