Playing a game with our mind may not be just a fantasy anymore. Virtual Reality may encounter, in the short-term, a revolution. At least that’s what Mike Ambinder, the major experimental psychologist at Valve, said at GDC 2019.
Brain-Computer Interfaces are already revolutionizing our world and always going a step further from the past. Now virtual reality too could be affected, with headsets with built-in BCI to renew the game experience.
“Brain-Computer Interfaces: One Possible Future for How We Play”
During Game Developer Conference 2019 this session was held by Mike Ambinder, presenting this new technology. Even if it’s just speculative for now, it may not be very far in time as we could think.
Right now players are always restricted to the use of the mouse, keyboard, gamepad, any kind of controller or gestural controls. So there is always a layer between us and the game. The future of interfaces may, on the contrary, include the ability to interpret neurological signals.
This way actions will be quicker and more sensitive and responsive, not to mention the wider array of possible inputs that we could use. This obviously means a better quality of the game experience, with more immersive and realistic gameplay.
An example of BCI tech can be smarter enemies. They can adapt to our current mood and way of playing, changing their behavior accordingly. The way the game flows will depend on the player’s mood. Also, for online team gaming, it could be easier to identify toxic players and separate them from others. The game could adjust rewards based on the player’s preferences about prizes.
BCI in virtual reality headsets
Ambinder’s goal is to acquire physiological data from a player through built-in BCI in virtual reality headsets and use them to inform the game whether he’s happy, sad, bored, frustrated, focused, distracted. This has the aim to leverage this data to give correct responses from the game, like changing game difficulty on the fly.
In the near-term, EEG is the easiest way to collect this data. Electroencephalography permits to organize data into something actionable for developers. EEG is not invasive: electrodes are placed in various points of the scalp. From them, developers can measure voltage fluctuation of the brain’s neurons.
But it’s not easy to convince someone to wear 35 electrodes on his head. That’s where AR/VR headsets come in. Wearing a helmet is not strange for modern gamers. Virtual Reality headsets will get consistent contact with the source of brain activity.
It could seem very far from us, but companies like Neurable have already announced they’re working on productizing EEG devices specially built to work with VR devices.