Can nanotechnology transform gaming?

Nanotechnology could impact gaming by enabling handhelds with better battery life, more immersive virtual reality and faster next gen consoles. 

Discovering nanotechnology

Aged 14, I first discovered nanotechnology when I came across K. Eric Drexler's amazing Engines of Creation. In awe of his vision of an age of abundance where we could create anything using nothing but the dirt around us, I lent my copy to my Economics teacher, who was equally impressed at the potential for this wondrous new technology.

I almost forgot about it when I became an adult and the lure of other things was pulling me in. I'd dip my toes back in to that world whenever I read about a new application or someone was envisioning a new application.  

I wasn't fully immersed and couldn't imagine the wonderful world of assemblers would happen anytime soon. We would still make things the old way, do things the old way. It was somewhat disheartening but this was reality, no matter how hard you could try to make it go away. 

Lately, though, I've been thinking about technology a lot and how we are on the cusp of doing some amazing things. Developing games has, admittedly, narrowed my focus a little, so in this post I'll be exploring my thoughts for the potential of nanotechnology to transform gaming. 

Lighter, better handhelds

One the major things holding back the potential for truly amazing handhelds (imagine a more powerful GPD Win that could play the latest games or a next generation Switch) is battery life. 

Adding a bulky battery reduces the portability but nanotechnology offers the promise of next gen batteries in addition to improving existing tech. 

There is a lot of research happening in this area (see this useful list of developments, for example) but my favorite is the idea of using 'nanochains' to extend the lifespan of traditional lithium ion batteries. Researchers at Purdue University conducted research using antimony based 'nanochains' which could lead to more powerful batteries: "The researchers compared the nanochain electrodes to graphite electrodes, finding that when coin cell batteries with the nanochain electrode were only charged for 30 minutes, they achieved double the lithium-ion capacity for 100 charge-discharge cycles."

These new batteries could lead to lighter handhelds with better CPUs and GPUs and longer battery life. 

New smells

Ah, Smell-O-Vision. The butt of countless jokes since it failed, the idea of technology which could give your nose some type of enjoyment has long been the preserve of science fiction, but nanotechnology could make it happen. 

Nanowerk News reported on the NANOSMELL project which could make this a reality. They wrote that: "The NANOSMELL project aims to switch smells on and off by tagging artificial odorants with nanoparticles exposed to electromagnetic field."

Gaming applications could be pretty cool if this could be made to work with a console or PC. You could be playing a new Call of Duty and be hit with smell of mud when running through a field or the smell of flowers when playing Fable. There's a lot that could be done. 

Less Bulky VR And Better Graphics

Imagine a VR system that can track your in-game movements with your watch. That's one possibility of an incredible accelerometer pioneered by KTH

Or what about a new type of skin that could be fantastic for virtual reality? You could feel every piece of the action in an FPS, the touchdown in a Madden game or the textures in a wood in an Elder Scrolls game. That could be one possibility with this new artificial skin reported by Nanowerk News last year. 

Something we can all appreciate is better graphics. Researchers from the Australian National University developed a nano-antenna to transmit data at amazing speed. An article at the time from ABC News wrote: "An international team of scientists, based in Australia and Germany, designed a tiny antenna — 100 times thinner than a human hair — which could improve the speed at which data is processed for games."

Concluding Thoughts

Nanotechnology promises to transform every area of gaming. From new handhelds with incredible battery life to immersive virtual reality, there is a lot to look forward to. 

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