At GDC Valve revealed that the company is working on a new tech that can read your brainwaves to see what in-game rewards you may like. The tech is currently in its concept stage and may not even make it to the market. However, that didn’t stop Valve’s Principal Experimental Psychologist, Mike Ambinder, from talking about it during the Game Developers Conference.
According to Ambinder, Valve might one day be able to study player brainwaves in the middle of a game. Before talking about the technology he makes it clear that this is purely speculative at this point and this is just one possible direction things could go.
The idea is to consider a player’s controller use as a conversation. In this case, when you talk to a person, your words and gestures are equivalent to your pressing of a button. Your use of a controller can be tracked as a signal of your behavior during gameplay. Video games are limited by memory and a player may memorize as many as 20-100 combinations commands. It may seem plenty of according to Ambinder it is still a limitation.
The time it takes for a synapse to reach a finger is around 100 milliseconds. The idea is to reduce this time by 20-30 milliseconds. If financial aspects were a problem, current hardware is capable enough to track synaptic responses to “galvanic skin response.” We are talking about your eyes’ gaze, muscle tension, and posture.
Some of the ways such data can be used are to adjust the difficulty of a game based on the player’s feelings and tweaking in-game reward drops. Such data can help the game understand what kind of rewards you may or may not like.
Such a system sounds like a privacy breach on a physiological level. Plus, the potential abuse, when combined with gambling mechanics, is a concern.
The timing of discussing such a mechanic seems suspicious considering Valve just introduce soft currency gambling in DOTA. When added a new feature to its DOTA Plus service that allows subscribers to place bets on DOTA 2 matches.
According to Valve, this will enhance the player experience for every DOTA Pro Circuit Event.
You’ll be able to wager your personal stash of Plus Shards to predict the winners of DPC matches, with winnings added to your in-game total. The Fantasy Challenge offers the chance for more Shards, as you compete against your friends and the entire world to put together the best roster of pro players at each event. In addition, you’ll have access to a dynamic News Feed that features your personalized favorite teams and players, helping you stay on top of every DPC development along the road to The International.
The good news is that while Valve discussed this speculative tech at GDC, what shape it’ll take remains to be seen. It is quite possible that this tech never reaches the proper development phase.