Valve CEO Gabe Newell believes that brain-computer interfaces will be the next great evolution in video games.
Newell sat down with New Zealand news outlet 1 NEWS to talk about how brain-computer interface technology, or BCI, will shape the future of game development (thanks, PC Gamer). The CEO revealed that Valve is currently working on brain-computer interface software that can be applied to headsets, which can then monitor the wearer’s brain signals.
To put it simply: a BCI device is able to read your mind. Even beyond video games, this raises a ton of questions, but Newell believes that any developer that isn’t investing in BCI risks being left behind.
“If you’re a software developer in 2022 who doesn’t have one of these in your test lab, you’re making a silly mistake,” Newell told 1 NEWS.
So, how can game developers apply BCI to video games? Well, the simplest approach is data collection. If a developer can see when players are shocked, scared, angry or frustrated at certain points of a game, that’s a lot of valuable information for future products.
Another potential application would be to design games that can respond to a player’s emotions in real-time. For example, a character in a video game could sense if you’re angry about something, and they’ll respond accordingly.
But Newell also spoke about how BCI software could make you “editable.” BCIs receive signals from the brain but they may also be able to send signals, as well. Theoretically, this means that you could use a BCI to spark good feelings or even eliminate your fear of clowns.
If this sounds controversial and a little scary to you, well, it should and shouldn’t. While the implications are certainly unsettling, BCI technology is still far away from being invasive or replacing our organic brains any time soon.
But the dangers they present are also nothing new. Social media platforms have already been hacking our brains for a while now. BCI is another tool that’s not necessarily malicious on its own but could have disastrous consequences if not properly supervised.
Thankfully, Newell himself was aware of these dangers. He pointed out that we’re forced to trust that the people that hold all our financial data and personal information. If they mismanage that data or use it foolishly, then naturally, consumers will be rightfully angry.
Newell says that this will be a natural safeguard for BCI designers to act responsibly.
“Nobody wants to say, ‘Oh, remember Bob? Remember when Bob got hacked by the Russian malware? Yeah, that sucked. Is he still running naked through the forest?’” Newell said to 1 NEWS. “People are going to have to have a lot of confidence [that] these are secure systems that don’t have long-term health risks.”
Let’s hope that BCI doesn’t usher in an actual cyberpunk dystopia.
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