I don’t write about all this because of Valve specifically, but rather to show how much interest this topic finds in the community. Players want this, especially VR players.Back to Neuralink: What can it do for gaming? Sadly, I’d say not much in the current state. The way it is designed so far is to be used in medical circumstances, for example the classic BCI for cummunication and control of paraplegics or patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, like Stephen Hawking had it). The device will be first planted at the motor cortex, maybe left and right, and maybe also at the somatosensory cortex. Essentially, it is going to be used instead of muscles, to talk or to steer things. Now, for most of us who are fortunate enough to not be riddled with these diseases, that is not a functionality with a lot of value.
We already have well working Brain-World-Interfaces: our muscles. It certainly would not be worth the risk of opening the skull to get a BMI that replaces them. Musk said that they want users to be able to play Star Craft II as good as or better than when using a regular mouse and keyboard. I find this highly unlikely with the stuff they showed us and also with the near future projections. It’s not impossible, but the amount of fine-grained control which is necessary here is pretty intense. A thousand or even ten thousand electrodes are not going to be specific enough to steer a mouse with that kind of precision, they’d have to be able to analyze tiny movements which don’t need a lot of mental effort to imagine or execute physically. If you ask me, there is one key point here:
Healthcare Is Big on Virtual Reality. From diagnostics to treatment to practicing difficult surgical procedures, healthcare institutions are incorporating virtual reality into many facets of the industry. By combining diagnostic images from CAT scans and ultrasounds, healthcare professionals are able to use software to create 3D virtual models to help surgeons decide the best locations for surgical incisions and prepare for surgery.
BMIs won’t conquer the market to replace keyboard and mouse.
Why? Well, it simply is not necessary. I can already play games, just replacing the current control scheme is pretty lame. No way anyone is drilling holes in my head for that. In my opinion, the ideas need to go further. And these actually have me excited: With a BMI at the right place, we can tap into the mind of the player, in a way that is simply impossible without. That is the real deal.
I’m thinking of a device that would have to read out intentions (approach/withdrawal, friend/foe, build/destroy, that kind of stuff) and other covert aspects of user state like emotions or mental effort. If you think about what happens in a fast-paced game, it’s pretty intense: “Hit, block, drink potion, switch weapon, cast spell, block again” can easily happen in the time course of a second or two, and this assumes that movement happens more or less automatically meanwhile. Being able to execute these as soon as you even think about them, before your brain even starts the process of moving your fingers, with 100% precision, intuitively, that would be a real improvement. But these are extremely difficult abstract tasks, not something a BMI at the motor cortex can easily deliver.
Virtual reality is being used in health care. It allows medical students to practice dangerous procedures and gain experience without actually operating on a human. It can also help surgeons determine the best point of entry for surgeries.