Mind-Control isn’t science fiction, it’s just science

This story is part of our new story The future of the game series, a three-site look at pioneering games in technologies, players and creators.


With just your mind: you can imagine, you can dream the impossible, and one day soon you will be able to play your favorite video games. Mind control games may seem more appropriate for a game Bjerk music video Or a less endearing end of civilization than the world we might actually want to build, but the virtual reality and neurotech companies are determinedly trying to put science to our imaginations. Part of that includes the maturation of virtual reality headsets from damned, barely usable concrete blocks. They were in the 90sTo more impressive, Grinding blocks. This technology gives us instant access to the kinds of alternate worlds that people have been striving for for a millennium. Many rooms From the Christian heaven to the Disneyland version of heaven, where you can devour turkey legs while surrounded by corporate icons. VR technology is integral to where gaming is and where it’s going next, and it represents both the timeless fantasy and our modern ability to make it happen. It’s been a long time coming and now, VR research and the future of gaming technology is determined by your brain, which sets the standard for every industry.

The future is now

Whether it is vanilla white PlayStation VR 2 ($550), Three Eyes Meta Quest 3 ($500) or any other numberA simple and modern VR system should provide you with the best graphics and the most intuitive controls. Everything else is an obstacle to entering and feeling fully immersed in your virtual reality. Both of these things are rooted in perception, the way we combine external information. To make VR compelling to our senses, VR technology companies regularly employ neuroscientists to improve their technology and user experience.

It is as difficult as it sounds. A former classmate of mine and current audio-visual speech researcher at the University of Michigan, most people don’t realize that our brain’s activities are so noisy and varied. Cody Caowho also trained in Metas Reality LabsIt told me through the text that it is hard to make a general tool for everyone. In head movement alone, there are three axes of motion, and movement speed and reaction time actually give us more simple information about a gamer than brain signals.

But tech companies are relying on our brains to take virtual reality to its most extreme: mind-controlled gaming. It’s real, you researchers know you’ve been working on it for years. In 2019, Ex valve Experimental psychologist Mike Ambinder He told the audience Game Developers Conference That VR is powered by a brain-computer interface (BCI) (a system that connects brain signals to an external device) was the most natural way to play games.

What if you didn’t have to remember [every controller input]? Ambinder said at the time. What if you could just think about what you want to do and it would happen? Doesn’t this change the way you play?

Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley James O’Brienwhose current research shows that people’s movements in VR can identify them as reliably as fingerprints, likewise suggested that there’s quite a bit of brain-teasing to come.

VR won’t take off until the technology gets there, says OBrien at Zoom. He recalls his first experience with VR around 1995, when the resolution was 300×300 or something really terrible and it cost $200,000 in the low end.

Currently, the processing power in a Quest 2 is actually more than $200,000 [Silicon Graphics] machinery, He says. Tracking is much better. Now, the systems use cameras that are called Inside-out trackingwhere cameras look at the world, and as you move, they can infer what your head is doing by watching how the world moves.

you can imagine [that] OBrien continues that in a world where those technologies are much more mature, we don’t need a big headset. [T]Here is a small piece that you stick behind your head […]. This is basically your introduction to systems thinking. Some of your arm movements are probably because many people think of movement. But, in any case, it will be the interface, and the screen is something that could even be implanted in your eyes one day.

And I think, at that point, [VR] O’Brien said he would be everywhere.

Human cost

However, when it comes to today’s virtual reality technology, perhaps we don’t give our brains the priority they deserve. Alexis SuchetHe, who works at the Francis Institute of Technology IRT SystemX and studies the side effects of virtual reality, tells me that VR hardware and software companies are not using human agents properly.Physical responses such as dizziness And sweat during product launches.

Fairies fly in the social virtual reality world of VRChat.
screen shot: VRChat Inc.

Higher specs don’t automatically mean better for humans, Souchet says via email. Early research suggests that in most people, VR causes cybersickness, visual fatigue, and some muscle fatigue.

Suchet recognizes that virtual reality also offers very promising benefits in mental therapies or pain management, but we tend to focus on the real benefits, not the risks.

As VR becomes more popular, so does the volume of headsets sold It is expected to reach its peak With 27 million units in 2028, compared to 4 million in 2018, Souchet says our neural plasticity can shape our brains to better adapt to our use. like phones They have already provenlocked in co-evolution with our devices.

But, he wonders, if we adapt to VR, will we become less adapted to our natural environment? What will be the consequences for the population? This is the question that science asks about the development of human technology. It always makes me think, to quote Edward O. Wilson, the social biologist, points out: The real problem with humanity is this: we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.

And mind control games can make you feel more powerful than any previous technology. OBrien predicts that in the next decade, you’ll be able to sit in front of your TV and command the perfect form of entertainment through generative AI systems. In real time, he says, these high-quality things are produced on the fly. […] Can I say, hey, what happened to Black Widow? where did he go? I want to go into the void where he was sucked in to see what happened to him.

I think I’ll say it myself, you shouldn’t kill Carrie in her own movie. Movies and other media that we might think of as static will become interactive, more like a video game, and the difference [between the two] O’Brien says it’s going to go away.

Well, he says, let’s all take care of our own things, which can be isolating. But, at the same time, [it will allow] We can experience the virtual world with you to communicate with people. That feels quite realistic.

Brain games beyond VR

But let’s look at our rooms. Most people will be playing on their computer screen for the foreseeable future. Nervous CEO Ramses Alkaid told me via Zoom. (Alkaid, by the way, financed the first six months of Neurables with him fire stone winning tournaments.) So technology in our near future is less about what device you use to play. [with], [and more about] What tools did we use to understand ourselves?

Neurables smart headphones that claim Follow your focus By assessing the brain’s electrical activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG), try to tell when you’re focused.

He says that he pulls them easily on the headphones, which are made of fabric sensors. Normally, you want metal [for EEG], but because of our AI, we were able to use these regular headphones and still record great brain data. I watch Alcide look at his computer screen and a thin blue bar bends over a graph, then dips as he announces that it’s calm.

There is no calibration, he says, the technology just works. It can be integrated into your games or apps. Then, [wed be] Can tell, is the gamer distracted? Are they burnt? Are they on the incline?

Currently, Neurable is working with esports teams (and the DoD, Alcaide tells me) to make their headphones a standard part of training, something that can provide digestible biofeedback and prevent burnout.

It’s like, hey, this [persons] The ability to focus on the game comes to the point where they don’t make good decisions. He says they need to rest. Or, on the development side, when you give someone a jump that can be nerve-wracking, right? How do you know they have learned key information from the training? He says. There is value in game development.

In the comfort of your own home

Alcaide imagines Neurables technology could be more widely distributed in the next three years, albeit at a luxury price (he didn’t discount my $300-$400 estimate). EEG games, at present, are more imperfect than that. streaming perikarialwhich goes by Perry, can show.

His setup isn’t as seamless as Neuralables’ unreleased tech, but it does the job for his viral mind control game streams. In these he turns off Alden ring the bosses with his mindit blows halo Multiplayer With his eyes, and finally, will use VR research company intuitiveWork to play Skyrims The real mode of virtual magic In the most inclusive way possible

When I’m playing the EEG game, he tells me via Zoom, it’s basically a bunch of code that’s very, very bad, then a Tobii eye tracker so I can go hands-free, and a traditional wet EEG with electrodes that use saline. . A solution to help interpret what’s going on under his skin. Then, he hooks everyone.

He says it never works the first time.

But Perry believes anyone can do what he does. They just need to replicate his great, great focus.

When he plays, he moves with head rotation and gyroscope and eye tracking. And then, when I shoot, I imagine pushing a heavy boulder forward. When I jump, I imagine a spinning plate, and I get some voice commands to navigate the menus. You can call it involved. Sometimes, Perry finds it a bit relaxing to play with a regular controller.

“It’s easier than what I do with EEG,” he says. But after a certain amount of time, when I’m past that comfort and ease, I always think, well, what’s missing?

For Perry, that feeling of being fully absorbed in a game, a fantasy world, an exciting prospect is tangible and, for tech companies, purchasable.

I feel at least for me to play regularly with mouse and keyboard, as I’m exploring other ways to do it. I think it’s done,” Perry says. “We received it as well as we were going to receive it. And the future is already here. It has been waiting inside you all this time.

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Image Source : kotaku.com

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