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Valve CEO thinks tech is on its way to The Matrix

It turns out that Valve Software has been researching different methods of human-video game interaction. Specifically, the company has been expanding on research involving brain-computer interfaces. Because of this, Valve CEO Gabe Newell has revealed in an interview with IGN that we are closer to a science fiction level of interactivity than we could have imagined. Specifically, Newell has compared these new advances to the Matrix motion picture series.

Newell revealed this while chatting with IGN about Half-Life: Alyx, the new VR game from the company that fills in some of the story gaps between the Half-Life games. While it's not the full-fledged sequel that fans have been clamoring for for ages, it's still a reason to be excited. IGN picked Newell's brain regarding future plans for the series, but the most interesting part of the interview concerns the kind of research Newell has been getting into for the last few years.

"The area that I'm spending a lot of time on has been growing out of a bunch of research that occurred a while ago on brain-computer interfaces," Newell explained. "I think that that's kind of long lead stuff, so that's kind of the background thread that I get pulled back into when other things aren't demanding my attention."

He continued, "We're way closer to The Matrix than people realize. It's not going to be The MatrixThe 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 on the kinds of experiences we can create for people."

As Newell explains, there has been quite a bit of research put into understanding exactly how the brain tells the human body to react to different stimuli. "It turns out that your brain has really good interfaces for some things ... And the fact that your immune systems gets involved in your perceptions of temperature means there are all sorts of weird parts of your brain that participate in the sensation of being cold, whereas things like your motor cortex or your visual cortex are much more tractable problems ... We're going to learn a lot as we proceed as to what things work and what things don't, what things are valuable to people and what things are party tricks that don't really matter in the long run."

In other words, the tangible, hands-on approach for video games and the sensations caused by them will likely become a thing of the past at some point. Valve may be working on understanding how the brain can be utilized to generate new sensations that tie into interactive experiences, but some developers are focused on finding ways to do away with controllers entirely — like the guy who designed VR games that are controlled solely through hand. Daniel Beauchamp, the Head of VR and AR at Shopify, has been creating proof of concept VR demos that show off how games for the Oculus Quest can move forward without the use of a controller. 

As Beauchamp explained at the time, his philosophy was to "Build many small things, no matter how silly they may seem. You'll be surprised at just how much you learn." In other words, Valve's experiments are probably nowhere close to replicating the tech seen in The Matrix, but the innovations still have to come from somewhere, no matter how small.

Sure, there's not really an indication in the interview about how far along such research is. It's also unclear how Valve would hope to utilize said research, or even if there's an opportunity for them to do so any time in the near future. Still, it's fascinating to know that this is an area that is being explored, particularly by a company as notable and high profile as Valve.

It's also worth noting that, of course, fans were quick to pick up on Newell's comments and make some pretty good jokes about them. Many of these barbs involved the long-delayed and never-forgotten third Half-Life game. As one user tweeted, "Closer to the matrix than half life 3 [sic]." It's only funny because it's pretty much true, you guys.

As for the Matrix series, there actually is a fourth Matrix movie in the works. Production on the newest sequel has been delayed due to public health concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. But hey, maybe they can use this gap in production to get Gabe Newell a cameo in the new film. The guy seems to know his stuff.