Opinion Other

Let’s play “What if” with video games

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I secretly harbor this idea that video game developers are prophets in their own right. Now that my insane idea is out in the open, let’s play “What if” with video games. We might find that it isn’t so preposterous after all.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Game premise: Complete human augmentation is a reality in the year 2027.

Focus story: To save Adam Jensen’s life, he undergoes extensive surgery and gets a cybernetic makeover. Most parts of his body either get an augmented upgrade or are entirely recreated. He enters the sci-fi world of Deus Ex as a cyborg; an organic and artificially engineered human.

Real life: How close is modern day technology on producing prosthetics? Could it even be possible for organic tissue and digits to form a symbiosis? How would the interface work and would it be hackable? What would the emotional impact be on an augmented person and would it be affordable for ordinary people to purchase augments? When I start to think about the implications of living in a cyborg world, it causes Pandora’s Box to open in my mind. Just consider the fallout it would have on economics, the human psyche and ethics, not to mention the military applications. One thing is certain though, prosthetics are already adding tremendous quality of life to people who have suffered the loss of some part of their body. Let’s take a look at how far we have advanced with human augmentation in 2012.

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Touch bionics is already producing “i-limbs”, products that include a myoelectric prosthetic hand and prosthetic finger solutions. The “livingskin” product uses hand crafted, high definition silicone that gets hand painted on the prosthetic limb to match skin tone and appearance. Touch bionics has produced prosthetics for world class athletes and improved the lives of countless ordinary citizens.

Then there is Rob Spence, a self-confessed real life cyborg and Deus Ex fanboy who lost his right eye in a shotgun accident. Five engineers teamed up to build a prosthetic eye with a wireless camera inside it and thus entered, Rob the “Eyeborg”.

Follow Spence in this documentary as he sets out on a journey around the world in search of others like him.

I leave you with this: “Could augmentation be the fountain of life?”

Remember Me

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Game premise: People wear the Sensen device on the back of their necks, through hacking this device victim’s memories can be altered and/or stolen.

Focus story: The proposed future for humanity has essentially done away with secrecy - memories can be bought and sold, and people can know anything about anyone for the right price. You can read more about the game here; Capcom introduces memory bending with new game: Remember Me.  

Real life: This sounds highly unlikely to happen in real life. For starters, why would people even consider wearing such a device? The implications this would have on ethics, privacy and economics are staggering. It would fundamentally change how the world operates. The premise that with the right technology a person could steal another person’s thoughts is ridiculous. Or is it? For just R2 513 you can buy the EPOC neuroheadset and jack up to your PC.

This is the sales pitch: The Emotiv EPOC is a high resolution, neuro-signal acquisition and processing wireless neuroheadset. It uses a set of sensors to tune into electric signals produced by the brain to detect player thoughts, feelings and expressions and connects wirelessly to most PCs.

Real life applications: Artistic and creative expression - Use your thoughts, feeling and emotion to dynamically create colour, music and art. It has life changing applications for disabled patients, such as controlling an electric wheelchair, mind-keyboard, or playing a hands-free game.

Games and Virtual Worlds - Experience the fantasy of controlling and influencing the virtual environment with your mind. Play games developed specifically for the EPOC, or use the EmoKey to connect to current PC games and experience them in a completely new way.

Market Research & Advertising - get true insight about how people respond and feel about material presented to them. Get real-time feedback on user enjoyment and engagement. 

What they don’t say: A group of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, Oxford University and the University of Geneva did a study on 28 students wearing the EPOC. The researchers found that they were able to extract hints directly from the electrical signals of the test subjects’ brains that partially revealed private information like the location of their homes, faces they recognized and even their credit card PINs. (Source Forbes Games)

This is how I understand they were able to crack each individual’s personal code. Participants were shown a series of images, which enabled the researchers to collect a digital database of how an individual’s brain recognises that which is familiar, a baseline for recollection if you will. When therefore shown a map of their neighbourhood, the subject’s brain would trigger a memory spike indicating that he or she had a connection to the image. Through a process of elimination researchers were able to pinpoint the exact residential address of the subject.

They were able to access extremely confidential and private memories.

Closing thoughts

The realities in these two video games both have a shadow in the real world. The implications are exciting and scary at the same time. With technology one should never forget that it gives with the one hand and takes with the other. Technological advancement comes with its own price tag, be it an economical, ethical or moral cost.

Share with us some video games to real life examples that you’ve come across.

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