“We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realise. It’s not going to be The Matrix – The Matrix is a movie and it misses all the interesting technical subtleties and just how weird the post-brain computer interface world is going to be – but it’s going to have a huge impact in the kinds of experiences that we can create for people.”
Brain-computer interface tech – the practice of connecting the human brain to a device to allow for control of one over the other – has come a long way in recent years, with researchers now able to facilitate brain-based control over tablets. Newell didn’t make it clear exactly what his work centred on, but it’s clearly in the formative stages:
“I think it’s one of those things where we’re going to learn a lot as we progress – there’ll be some things that turn out to be ridiculously hard, and other things that’ll turn out to be ridiculously easy. Like, I think connecting to people’s motor cortex and visual cortex is going to be way easier than people expected. […] Reading and writing to somebody’s motor cortex is much more of a tractable problem than making people feel cold, and you never would have guessed that. I never would have guessed that until going into it. But it turns out that your brain has really good interfaces for some things, and really badly-designed, kludgy interfaces for doing other things.”
Half-Life: Alyx First Screenshots (4K)
One thing Newell does make clear is that this isn’t aimless research – he very much sees brain-computer interface technology as a next step for gaming, not to mention other forms of entertainment:
“I think that it’s an extinction-level event for every entertainment form that’s not thinking about this. If you’re in the entertainment business and you’re not thinking about this, you’re going to be thinking about it a lot more in the future.”
As of right now, however, Newell and his team are thinking about how to change the medium in a different way with Half-Life: Alyx – arguably VR gaming’s first blockbuster project. We’re running an IGN First on the game all month, and can tell you about the first 4 hours, how Zelda inspired its new gravity gloves, and answer your burning questions.
Of course, we also have the full half-hour interview with Gabe Newell and Half-Life: Alyx developer Robin Walker, where they talk about far more than just Matrix tech, from how Artifact is a disappointment, but a learning experience, to why a new Half-Life took so long.
Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Executive Editor of News, and he’s ready for one of those Zion parties. Follow him on Twitter.