Changing the game: Developing technology with Durham College

Slouching in a couch, hunched over a keyboard, or tapping away on a cellphone are all ways in which people enjoy video games but a father and son duo is working to change all that and Durham College is helping.

Michael and Brodie Stanfield are the face of IFTech, a small start-up company working to develop a project known as As Real As It Gets, or ARAIG.

ARAIG is a wearable gaming device fitted with devices that vibrate and cause muscle contractions to make the impact of video games feel more real than a vibrating controller in a player’s hand.

Michael says the idea came from a game of Halo where he and his son thought the rumbling controller and the animations on screen weren’t satisfying enough.

“What if we could make it more real, how could you make it more real?” Michael asked, “And that’s where the idea came from.”

That was back in 2007. Now the project is well under development and ARAIG is actively being built and designed by four Durham College students whom Michael and Brodie meet with weekly to discuss progress, challenges, and ideas.

“The students are bright, they know what they’re doing, and we’ve got a great project team,” Michael said.

Durham College was recently awarded $20,000 for the suit’s development from Ontario Centres of Excellence, an organization that focuses on the development of Ontario’s economy through business and technology.

The grant will help the students working on the project buy materials and parts.

According to Brodie the current project is focusing on wireless communication and making the suit ready for commercial sale. Commercializing the project means ensuring that sensors, wires, and chips are fully functional and that power consumption, tearing, and over extension of wires won’t become issues.

“That was one of the problems that we faced in initial discussions with people. They see it and think it shouldn’t take long to get done because the technology exists.” Michael said, “It’s just the amount of technology that’s woven into this and has to be integrated together.”

Development of ARAIG isn’t just beneficial to Michael and Brady though, students gain real experience and become bigger contenders in the job market.

“This is just a great segue into hiring people. If you have projects going on here and people who worked on your project, you’re going to need them for research and development and moving into the next generation.” Michael said, “Plus you already know their work ethic and their expertise, their skillset, so it’s really fantastic to actually be able to work with them.”

According to Brodie, the ARAIG suit is slated to retail at $500 and it won’t be solely for gaming. It has potential to work for movies as well which, according to Michael, is one of the industries that approached IFTech when the ARAIG was still in early development. According to Brodie this was because ARAIG could make people able to feel sensations while watching and offered film makers another way to interact with viewers.

While there is currently no set date for ARAIG’s launch Brodie emphasized that 2015 is going to be a big year for IFTech.