Incoming: Brain-computer interfaces adjust gaming experience to your feelings

Valve, the company behind Half Life and Counter-Strike, has just announced that the video games giant is ushering humanity into a Brave New World. How so? By merely including new technologies called brain-computer interfaces in its games.
Please read below an great brief report from The Organic Prepper, followed by a few of my own comments:

Brain-Computer Interfaces: Don’t Worry, It’s Just a “Game”

by Robert Wheeler

BCIs will work on our feelings by adjusting the game accordingly

The head of Valve, Gabe Newell, has stated that the future of video games will involve “Brain-computer interfaces.” Newell added that BCIs would soon create superior experiences to those we currently perceive through our eyes and ears. 

Newell said he envisions the gaming devices detecting a gamer’s emotions and then adjusting the settings to modify the player’s mood. For example, increasing the difficulty level when the player is getting bored.

Valve is currently developing its own BCIs and working on “modified VR head straps” that developers can use to experiment with signals coming from the brain. “If you’re a software developer in 2022 who doesn’t have one of these in your test lab, you’re making a silly mistake,” Newell said.

VR headsets will collect data by reading our brain signals

Valve is working with OpenBCI headsets. OpenBCI unveiled a headset design back in November that it calls Galea. It is designed to work alongside VR headsets like Valve’s Index.

“We’re working on an open-source project so that everybody can have high-resolution [brain signal] read technologies built into headsets, in a bunch of different modalities,” Newell added.

“Software developers for interactive experience[s] — you’ll be absolutely using one of these modified VR head straps to be doing that routinely — simply because there’s too much useful data,” said Newell.

The data collected by the head straps would consist of readings from the players’ brains and bodies. The data would essentially tell if the player is excited, surprised, bored, sad, afraid, or amused and other emotions. The modified head strap will then use the information to improve “immersion and personalize what happens during games.”

The world will seem flat and colorless in comparison to the one created in your mind

Newell also discussed taking the brain-reading technology a step further and creating a situation to send signals to people’s minds. (Such as changing their feelings and delivering better visuals during games.)

“You’re used to experiencing the world through eyes,” Newell said, “but eyes were created by this low-cost bidder that didn’t care about failure rates and RMAs, and if it got broken, there was no way to repair anything effectively, which totally makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but is not at all reflective of consumer preferences.”

“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.

“Where it gets weird is when who you are becomes editable through a BCI.” ~ Gabe Newell

Typically your average human accepts their feelings to be how they truly feel. Newell claims that BCIs will allow for an edit of these feelings digitally.

“One of the early applications I expect we’ll see is improved sleep — sleep will become an app that you run where you say, ‘Oh, I need this much sleep, I need this much REM,’” he said.

Newell also claims that another benefit could be the reduction or complete removal of unwanted feelings or brain conditions.

Doesn’t something good come from this technology?

Newell and Valve are working on something beyond merely the improvement of the video game experience. There is now a significant bleed over in the research conducted by Newell’s team and the prosthetics and neuroscience industries.

Valve is trading research for expertise, contributing to projects developing synthetic body parts.

“This is what we’re contributing to this particular research project,” he said, “and because of that, we get access to leaders in the neuroscience field who teach us a lot about the neuroscience side.”

Are we equipped to experience things we have never experienced?

Newell briefly mentioned some potential negatives to the technology. For example, he said how BCIs could cause people to experience physical pain, even pain beyond their physical body.

“You could make people think they [are] hurt by injuring their tool, which is a complicated topic in and of itself,” he said.

From the TVNZ article:

Game developers might harness that function to make a player feel the pain of the character they are playing as when they are injured — perhaps to a lesser degree.

Like any other form of technology, Newell says there’s a degree of trust in using it and that not everyone will feel comfortable with connecting their brain to a computer.

He says no one will be forced to do anything they don’t want to do, and that people will likely follow others if they have good experiences, likening BCI technology to cellular phones.

“People are going to decide for themselves if they want to do it. Nobody makes people use a phone,” Newell said.

“I’m not saying that everybody is going to love and insist that they have a brain-computer interface. I’m just saying each person is going to decide for themselves whether or not there’s an interesting combination of feature, functionality, and price.”

But Newell warned that BCIs come with one other significant risk. He says, “Nobody wants to say, ‘Remember Bob? Remember when Bob got hacked by the Russian malware? Yeah, that sucked. Is he still running naked through the forests?’”

Is this just another step in separating us from ourselves?

The truth is we will continue to be told to ignore the implications for this type of technology and the direction in which we are heading. Because, of course, they ARE developing prosthetics, and this is an advance in scientific discovery. Still, one step forward by an agenda and a plan created long ago only brings us that much closer to losing our ability to remember.  – The Organic Prepper

As for the Silview.media contribution to this report, I only have two things for you to chew on, but I think they can keep your mind busy for a very long time:


1. What if this technology can be made to work both ways and adjust your feelings to the experience?

2. What if this technology can be upscaled to the Internet of All Things and your life experience in “intelligent cities”?

3. Please enter “DARPA” in our Search utility and see how that plays out with 1. & 2.

After that, I’m gonna drop the mic with this:

OpenBCI Launches New, Hackable Brain Computer Interface

OpenBCI Launches New, Hackable Brain Computer Interface

By David Scheltema

Connor Russomanno and Joel Murphy
Connor Russomanno and Joel Murphy showoff their Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon during World Maker Faire 2015

For several years, Connor Russomanno and Joel Murphy have been designing brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) as part of their company, OpenBCI. It’s a tricky proposition; subtle brain waves can be measured, but it’s difficult to read them and even more difficult to control them. So for its latest device, the team launched a crowdfunding campaign for the BCI Ganglion, a sub-$100 device to measure brain, muscle, and heart activity. (Tracking muscles in addition to electrical signals from the scalp increases accuracy.)

They also announced the Ultracortex Mark IV​, a 3D printable headset designed to hold electrodes for electrical measurements by the Ganglion. Unlike existing devices that accomplish similar data acquisition, the Ganglion and Ultracortex Mark IV are open source (hardware and software), supported by an active user community, and lower in cost by thousands of dollars.

This means whether you want to record brainwaves for research purposes or create a brain-computer interface between five friends and a flying shark, it is possible and even affordable.

In one particularly far-out project, the TransAtlantic Biodata Communication hackathon, one person wired with OpenBCI was able to control a second person also wearing the device — even on opposite sides of the ocean.

OpenBCI's Processing application showing brainwave activity
OpenBCI’s Processing application showing brainwave activity (via OpenBCI)

But whether it’s wacky experiments, practical home projects, or academic research, the Ganglion offers a number of tools and sensors for various applications.

Specifications

  • 4 channel biosensors
  • 128, 256, 512 and 1024 sample rates
  • Used for EEG, EMG, or ECG
  • Wireless BLE connection with Simblee, an Arduino compatible BLE radio module
  • SD card slot for local storage
  • Accelerometer
  • Connects wirelessly to the OpenBCI Processing sketch

The Ultracortex Mark IV is not ready at launch; the headset is currently in the concept stage of development. But not to worry, previous headsets from OpenBCI are compatible with the new Ganglion. Here are the design specifications the team is working on:

  • Simplified assembly
  • Higher node count (especially above the motor cortex & the visual cortex)
  • Increased comfort

How the Ganglion works

Interfacing the human brain with computers is all about monitoring electrical activity. The Ultracortex Mark IV holds electrodes against your head and they are wired to the Ganglion. The Ganglion monitors the electrical activity of neurons in the brain at each electrode — also known as brainwaves.

From a computing perspective, the brainwaves constitute series of analog values, which the Ganglion samples and converts to digital values. This conversion is done using a specialized chip on the Ganglion known as an analog-to-digital converter (ADC). ADC chips are common in all sorts of electronics, not just BCI devices. If you have used an Arduino to read an analog sensor values, then you have used an ADC.

The Ganglion board mounted in the Mark IV headset. Exploding out of the Mark IV are the electrode nodes.
The Ganglion board mounted in the Mark IV headset. Exploding out of the Mark IV are the electrode nodes.

While the ADC chip OpenBCI used in the past was extremely powerful, it accounts for much of the cost of the device. The predecessor to the Ganglion, the OpenBCI 32-bit board, used a robust Texas Instruments ADS1299 which cost a whopping $36 per unit at quantity and $58 in low volume. While the ADS1299 chip is fantastic for sampling, it was way more advanced and expensive than most people want. When Russomanno and Murphy set out to lower the cost of their BCI device, the first thing they did was find a cheaper ADC. They were able to swap out the $36 chip with a much more affordable $6 ADC.

Cutting their cost for their last BCI board by nearly $400, the OpenBCI team is pushing the expectations for high-quality, low cost science devices. Asked what defines a successfully crowdfunding campaign apart from reaching a financial goal, Russomanno explains: “It is lowering the barrier to entry” and “getting the entire OpenBCI platform so it’s approachable by a passionate high schooler or undergraduate.”

OpenBCI attached to a Mark 3 headset
The older OpenBCI 32-bit attached to a Mark III headset

I hope the word “hackable” from the headline above stuck with you.

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