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Meet The MLB Player Who Helped Envision Deus Ex’s Future

by Ben Reeves on Jul 04, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Anyone can dream about the future. Interstellar space ships, laser swords, and alien races are a staple of science fiction, but it takes a lot of diligent research to craft a future that could actually come to pass. When Eidos-Montreal rebooted the Deus Ex series in 2011, it wanted to build a world that didn’t just feel real, but was a world that might become real in 15 to 20 years. The team knew they wouldn’t be able to do that on their own. In order to craft a believable near future, Deus Ex’s developers consulted with Will Rosellini, one of the leading biomechanical researchers in the field. However, Rosellini doesn't fit the mold of a traditional scientist. This ex-pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks has spent over a decade and several million dollars engineering a future where machines can flawlessly make up for biological failings, and now he’s helping deliver that future with the Deus Ex series.

Do you feel that most games misrepresent actual science?
I believe there is a correlation between the amount that science fiction is based on actual fact and the success of a game. Most serious gamers put the original Deus Ex on their top 10 lists, but agree that the sequel fell flat. My explanation for that fall off in popularity was based on the work that went into making the video games "real." I contacted Eidos-Montreal when they took over the franchise and helped them see that a core element of the series' popularity was based on employing real science to innovate within the game.

Jonathan Jacques-Belletête, the executive art director at Eidos-Montreal, is a true genius. He set the tone of the environment like a modern renaissance. Then I would explain where the technology is now and where it's headed. It was a really incredible creative process amongst the team. I pretty much only think about the future, so this was a very rewarding experience to see my future come to life in the art and world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

What was it like transitioning from the MLB to the research lab?
Surprisingly, it wasn't that much of a change. I approached being a pitcher as if it were a science. Each game, each pitch, and each move was studied. I would record every practice and game to evaluate and optimize even the smallest movements. Then I would experiment with a slight change to my technique. It took discipline and focus that was comparable to what I need in research. It takes some guts to stand on the mound with the bases loaded in a tie game, and I use that same confidence when I'm pushing the boundaries of scientific exploration.

As far as what sparked my interest in science, I've always been interested in this from a very early age. But my experience as a pro athlete only increased my interest. I was consumed by the idea of how another guy with my same build, training, and biomechanics could out-perform me. What does Curt Schilling have in his nervous system that made him better? When I left baseball, I had this lingering drive to figure out how to enhance the nervous system.

Sounds almost like a supervillain origin. Where did you beginning studying for something like that?
I am currently in the 31st grade. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in economics, I went on to complete nearly 300 hours of graduate education at 17 different schools. I'm hoping to enroll in the ATEC program at UT Dallas next, which deals with next generation thinking about digital-media design.

A lot of people didn't understand my path while I was in the midst of it. They'd ask me, "What do you need to go to law school for if you want to be a scientist?" But it was all always a part of my plan. I studied the law, the business, the government-regulation process, and the science, all as it is related to this field. Knowing each of these has allowed me to make a real impact on its advancement.

Will Rosellini giving a talk on the advancements in technology in the medical field during a TEDx event in Plano Texas

We heard that you actually offered to consult for with Eidos-Montreal for free. Why is that?
That's true. I've done all of this work for free. I contacted Eidos-Montreal in 2008 and told them I could help prevent them from making the same mistakes that Ion Storm did with Deus Ex: Invisible War. A few weeks later, I was participating in a private conference held by the most forward-thinking cyborg genius of our generation, Martine Rothblatt, where we were discussing the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence. While I was there, Eidos-Montreal called and invited me to fly up to meet them.

I am an INTJ on the Meyer Briggs personality type indicator, which means my only hobbies include studying and playing video games. I mostly like strategy-based games dating as far back as Zelda and the original Age of Empires on PC. I've played them all. My professional life has been about predicting the future of medicine for patients. I didn't want to be paid. I wanted to be a part of this team, and my reward was to have these talented designers manifest what only exists in my head into the gorgeous graphics in the game.

How has your research helped Eidos-Montreal firm up their science?
In recent years, my research has been focused mainly on smaller implantables as well as remote monitoring of these "smart" devices. But I didn't limit my suggestions for the game to my research only. I pulled from the wide body of knowledge from the future of medical implants to ensure the creators had a full scope of what these implants can and will do. We predicted that vagus nerve-stimulation technology would enable dramatic enhancements to the immune system.

I actually fought to get rid of the electrostatic jump/fall technology. I didn't think it was realistic that an exoskeleton controlled by a wireless implant could lessen the force of a fall. But there has been a fairly significant body of research that shows this could be possible in the next 20 years.

Do you feel like the future that Deus Ex represents is realistic? Was there any technology in Deus Ex that you see getting prototyped in the real world today?
Most of the technology in the game is reasonably predicted to be a reality in the next 15 years. We are right on track with the predictions including some aspects related to device hacking and data rights, as seen with [Edward] Snowden.