Brain-Computer Interfaces And The Next Era Of Entertainment


Have you ever been watching a movie and been completely engrossed by the plot, infatuated with the characters and totally invested only to have your immersion shattered by a story development that didn’t make much sense to you? Or have you ever been playing a video game and been deeply engaged in the gameplay and enthralled by the narrative until you get to that one level that’s just a little too frustrating, it completely pulls you out of the zone and you think to yourself “I wish they would have done this instead of that”?

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be able to interact with entertainment on a deeper level, to make decisions for key plot points in films as your watching them or be directly involved in the narrative direction or gameplay mechanics of your favorite video game while you play it?

It may just sound like fan fantasy sci-fi, but emerging fields of technological applications in the entertainment sector could actually make it a reality sooner rather than later.

As the field of neurotechnology continues to advance the development of brain-computer interfaces (BCI’s) and contemplate their application in the biomedical sector, the entertainment industry is taking notice and seriously contemplating their uses in enhancing the fan experience and revolutionizing how we interact with various modes of entertainment. Most often in terms of electroencephalogy (EEG), using neurological signals in the brain transmitted via wearable or implanted devices to interact with various forms of computer systems for a more immersive experience.

Numerous companies such as multibillion dollar game developer Valve, and BCI software startup Neurable have already been for the last few years starting to look at ways brain computer interfaces can be commercialized and developed for use in gaming. Once speaking with IGN, Valve cofounder and president Gabe Newell was quoted as saying “We’re way closer to ‘The Matrix’ than people realize,”… “It’s going to have a huge impact on the kinds of experiences we can create for people.” He said in reference to the ways in which brain computer interfaces could potentially be used to enhance player interactions with games possibly to a point of near total immersion.

While elsewhere in the filmmaking industry the technology is already being studied and applied as a means of creating an interactive film experience, utilizing the same concepts mentioned above using an algorithm to collect and analyze data from a viewers subconscious responses to create an edit of the film in real time. Effectively creating an adaptive ‘choose your own adventure’ story with hundreds of possible outcomes.

While this technology is still considered to be in its infancy it is rapidly advancing. 

As this technology continues to develop as a concept, so too do concerns with its impacts on the real world. Chiefly among ethics, privacy, and its effect on tangible interaction.

When discussing how creating a more immersive and interactive video game experience may affect the players perception of the real world Gabe Newell remarked that “The real world will seem flat, colorless, blurry compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains,”. Which begs the question, as technology addiction continues to become a concerning trend, exactly what impact would super-immersive technologies have on disassociating us from the real world and genuine human connection. Would the degradation of real life social interaction be worth it?