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Sony considered PS4 controller that could detect sweat

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Sony DualShock 4 (Credit: Sony)

Forget about reading facial expressions – the Next Big Thing in console gaming is…sweat?

Almost, according to Mark Cerny, lead system architect for Sony’s next-generation console. Cerny says one of the early designs of the DualShock 4 controller measured 'skin conductivity' -- or, in more colloquial terms, sweat -- to detect a player's emotions.

Exactly what it would have done with that information can only be guessed at today, since the company abandoned the idea, but it does indicate how thorough the company was with its research in designing the new PlayStation.

"We had a long research project where we looked at pretty much any idea we could think of," said Cerny, in a conversation with Stuff. "Would it help to measure the galvanic response of the skin? We tried out a tremendous number of things - and then we went to the game teams to ask them what they thought they could use from the controller."

Galvanic skin response is widely considered one of the best methods of determining stress levels. It's so accurate, in fact, that it's used in most lie detector tests.

[Related: Sony wins fans, regains cred at memorable E3 press conference]

Sony's not the only company to explore this territory. Software giant Valve has explored it as well as a possible method to improve gameplay.

Mike Ambinder, Valve's resident experimental psychologist, says the experiments have been mainly focused on players of their terrifying zombie game, Left 4 Dead. Based on the data gathered, the developer could modify the play experience so that it was more fun.

Among the experiments Valve ran was one where a player had four minutes to shoot 100 enemies. If players remained calm, the game progressed normally, but if they showed signs of stress, the game began moving more quickly, giving them less time to shoot the enemies.

"One thing we are very interested in is the notion of biofeedback and how it can be applied to game design," he said. "There is potential on both sides of the equation, both for using physiological signals to quantify an emotional state while people are playing the game. ... The more interesting side of the equation is what you can do when you incorporate physiological signals into the gameplay itself."

It's pretty cool stuff, but we're kind of glad Sony didn't follow the same path. If things sped up every time we got stressed out when a Clicker showed up in The Last of Us, we might never have finished the game -- or slept through the night.

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