Mind Over Matter: Valve co-founder Gabe Newell lifts lid on revolutionary ‘mind control’ game technology

Gabe Newell, president and co-founder of Valve, has discussed details on what brain-computer interface technology (BCI) could mean for the gaming landscape. He has hinted it could one day allow players to control action in-game using only their minds, and allow us to have experiences that are “superior” to our reality. 

Speaking to TVNZ’s 1 News programme in New Zealand, Newell – who founded Valve almost 24 years ago – said Valve is working on an open-source BCI software project. Advancements in this direct pathway of communication between our brains and gaming could open up possibilities including games reacting to the signals in your brain, thus our brains serving as input devices for the games we play.

These experiences, according to Newell, could become more immersive than (and “superior” to) reality fairly quickly. “So the visual experience, the visual fidelity we’ll be able to create – the real world will stop being the metric that we apply to the best possible visual fidelity” said Newell. “The real world will seem flat, colourless, blurry compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains.” For the purposes of gaming, visual stimuli could be edited to create this incredibly high level of fidelity and immersion.

Valve is currently working with OpenBCI headsets in the hopes of putting a product out in the near future to spark interest from software developers.

However, there could be privacy concerns over this technology, as it seems to open a whole new way to collect data. For example, data such as behavioural qualities of ourselves could be collected, when perhaps people would not be comfortable with such, as many have worries with how companies use their data. Newell states “People are going to have to have a lot of confidence that these are secure systems that don’t have long term health risks” as clearly pioneers of the technology will not have evidence to support what it can do.

BCI technology seems promising in certain aspects. It should be able to create experiences said to be in a higher fidelity than our own perception of the world. This could either sound intriguing, or truly terrifying, especially with the issues regarding data collection. However, this technology could have wider benefits on our lives, such as being able to run sleep like an application, whilst also delivering new immersive gaming experiences.

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Jacob Badcock

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December 2021
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