Brain-computer interfaces could make VR gaming way more immersive.
Virtual reality headsets are already pretty good at fooling our eyes and ears into thinking we’re in another world. And soon, we might be able to navigate that world with our thoughts alone.
Speaking at this year’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, Mike Abinder, in-house psychologist and researcher for game developer and distributor Valve, gave a talk on the exciting possibilities of adding brain-computer interfaces to VR headsets.
The idea is to add non-invasive electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to the insides of existing VR headsets. EEG readers detect the electrical signals firing in the brain and turn them into data points. And by analyzing that data, according to Abinder, game designers could make games that respond differently depending on whether you’re excited, happy, sad or bored.
“So think about adaptive enemies. What kinds of animals do you like playing against in gaming?” Ambinder said, as quoted by VentureBeat. “If we knew the answers to these questions, you could have the game give you more of a challenging time and less of the boring time.”
Game design could become almost perfectly tailored to the person wearing the VR headset — or even recreate a perfect representation of you inside a virtual world. Your avatar could perfectly mimic your current state of mind or mood.
“All of a sudden, we start becoming able to assess how you’re responding to various elements in game,” Ambinder continued. “We can make small changes to make big changes.”
There are a handful of companies already trying to harness brain signals for enhancing gaming experiences. A startup called Neurable is already testing out BCIs built into off-the-shelf VR headsets “to create a natural extension of our brains, creating new possibilities for human empowerment,” according to its website.
Of course, Abinder’s vision of the future of gaming is mostly a fun thought experiment at this stage. Even hospital-grade EEGs have to deal with a huge amount of noise — and that’s especially the case for consumer-grade, non-invasive scanners that are not planted to the scalp or surgically implanted.