Valve Co-Founder and President Gabe Newell spoke about Valve’s exploration of Computer and Brain Interfaces (BCIs) for gaming and beyond, in an interview with New Zealand 1 news. Although Newell admits that the notion of having your mind directly interface with a computer seems “indistinguishable from science fiction,” he says developers will make a “silly mistake” if they ignore the area.
Newell says Valve is currently working with OpenBCI headphones to develop open source software with the goal of making it easier for developers to understand the signals coming from people’s brains. At its most basic, this would allow the program to understand whether a player is enjoying a game, and adjust the experience accordingly. For example, games may increase the difficulty if the player feels bored. But Newell’s more ambitious ideas actually involve writing signals to people’s brains, rather than just reading them.
Newell suggests that our ability to experience current games is limited by our physical body – or “meat accessories” as he puts it. But direct interaction with a player’s brain can open up a lot of possibilities. “The real world will look flat, colorless, and hazy compared to the experiences you can create in people’s brains,” Newell says.
Valve has spoken publicly about her work on computer interfaces between the brain before. Back at the 2019 Game Developers Conference, Valve’s lead experimental psychologist, Mike Ambinder, gave a talk about the company’s work in the region, VentureBeat mentioned At the time, it covers many of the same possibilities and use cases Newell identified in his last interview.
In addition to being used in games, Newell says BCIs can help with other areas of a person’s life such as sleep. He says, “One of the early applications that I expect to see is enhanced sleep – sleep will become an app that you manage where you say, ‘Oh, I need this much sleep, I need this much REM.’
Despite the odds, Newell admits that brain and computer interfaces carry their risks. He says the idea of BCI making someone feel in pain is a “complex topic,” and he adds that interfaces will be as vulnerable to viruses as other technologies, indicating they will need similar safeguards.
Nobody wants to say, ‘Oh, remember Bob? Remember when Bob was hacked by Russian malware? This one is chubby – is he still running around naked through the woods? “People should have great confidence that these are safe systems that do not pose long-term health risks.”
Regardless, Valve appears to have no plans to commercialize her research yet. Newell says they’re making progress so fast that any device risks getting outdated once it goes through the slow marketing process. “The rate at which we learn about things is very fast,” says Newell.
Other notable companies currently exploring brain and computer interfaces include Facebook, which is working on a method to allow users to do so Write with their brainsAnd and Neuralink Elon Musk, Which is trying to develop a less invasive way to connect a computer to the human brain.