Newell says that Valve is currently working with OpenBCI headsets to develop open-source software with the aim of making it easier for developers to understand the signals coming from people’s brains. At its most basic, this could allow software to understand whether a player is enjoying a game, and adjust the experience accordingly. For example, games could turn up the difficulty if they sense a player is getting bored. But Newell’s more ambitious ideas involve actually writing signals to people’s brains, rather than just reading them.
Newell suggests our ability to experience existing games is limited by our physical body — or “meat peripherals” as he puts it. But interfacing directly with a player’s brain could open up a lot more possibilities. “The real world will seem flat, colorless, blurry compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains,” Newell says.
Newell admits that brain-computer interfaces carry their risks. He says that the idea of a BCI making someone feel pain is a “complicated topic,” and adds that the interfaces will be susceptible to viruses like other technologies, suggesting that they’ll need similar safeguards in place.