Valve founder Gabe Newell seems to be having a great time over in New Zealand at the moment, having chats about what the future of gaming looks like. In a recent interview with 1 News, he says that Valve is researching brain computer interfaces (BCIs) – software that would allow human brains to directly interface with computers. Except, the way he talks about it is all a bit weird, saying that BCIs would lead to gaming experiences better than players can get through their “meat peripherals”.
Gives off big “I want to turn you into a robot” energy.
“We’re working on an open source project so that everybody can have high-resolution [brain signal] read technologies built into headsets, in a bunch of different modalities,” Newell told 1 News.
BCIs could personalise what happens to you in a game by reading brain signals to increase game difficulty if you’re getting bored, for example, which is pretty cool. On a slightly more dystopian note, however, Newell suggests that the ability to experience games is limited by our physical human bodies. To that end, BCIs could also be used to straight-up create images in people’s minds, no eyes required.
“The real world will stop being the metric that we apply to the best possible visual fidelity,” he says. “The real world will seem flat, colourless, blurry compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains.”
That’s very scary! The real world being a terrible place with people wanting to escape into VR is some real Ready Player One shit, and I certainly don’t want that. Then it somehow gets even scarier after that, when Newell starts talking about “editing feelings”. He says BCIs could soon let people change their feelings digitally, “which could be as easy as using an app”.
This isn’t the first time Newell has talked about brain-computer interfaces. He’s brought them up a lot over the past few years, most recently while talking to IGN last year.
He covers different territory this time, and mentions that there’s even potential with BCIs to cause people pain – in this context he talks about using this to help a player experience a character’s pain in a game. Even still, I don’t know that I like the idea of that.
Despite all this, Newell reckons game devs would be making a mistake by not looking into BCIs, though he admits the idea of them can be “indistinguishable from science fiction”.
From the sounds of things, Valve are still very much in the research and development phase for BCI tech. I feel like I’d maybe like it to stay that way. Not that I don’t trust megacorporations whose founders chat about how their tech could “edit feelings” or anything.