A prominent video game developer is working on a product that would cut out the controller and create a direct link between a virtual reality video game system and the player’s brain. The system would be able to gauge a player’s response to a game in real time, and would even be able to implant new information to deliver a more immersive entertainment experience.
The company in question is Valve, and the news comes courtesy of an interview that CEO Gabe Newell conducted with 1 News in New Zealand. He revealed that Valve is currently working with OpenBCI, which has developed a BCI (“Brain-Computer Interface”) solution dubbed Galea that reads biometric activity in the human brain. Valve can then integrate feedback from Galea into the design of a game, allowing it to respond to the player’s mental state in the same way that it responds to the input it receives from the buttons of a more conventional controller.
“The readings can be used by developers to improve immersion and personalise what happens during games — like turning up the difficulty a bit if the system realises the player is getting bored,” explained Newell.
Newell went on to suggest that the BCI could also be used to plant new ideas in a manner similar to the Matrix. He argues that the technology would feel more authentic than reality, and give technology developers a new way to convey information and trigger emotional responses.
“The real world will stop being the metric that we apply to the best possible visual fidelity,” Newell continued. “The real world will seem flat, colorless, blurry, compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains.”
Of course, a technology with such privileged access to a person’s brain could easily be used for more sinister ends, and raises many ethical concerns. Newell himself acknowledged that his company’s concept could inflict pain if used improperly.
Neurotechnology recently released a BrainAccess Development Kit that makes it easier for technology providers to build EEG applications, while researchers at the University of Buffalo have created a system that uses EEG readings for authentication. SPARK Neuro is also using similar technology to gauge people’s responses to different kinds of media.