A Cyber Interface is hardware that allows one to perceive raw data as abstract pseudo-physical objects by turning information into artificial sensory stimuli. This is the basis for William Gibson/Bruce Sterling-styled virtual reality — not to be confused with the 1990s idea of "virtual reality" with Oculus Rift and Nintendo Power Gloves peripherals where video game damage magically converts to real damage, but something more akin to The Matrix (the 1999 movie of the same name).
The human mind can't comprehend a stream of data any more than it can "see" an electron. It needs a way to interpret the incoming data as something meaningful. So Netrunners use an interface program — a super advanced version of the more primitive "virtual reality" systems of the 1990's to interpret for them. The interface intercepts data coming through the cyberdeck and translates it into something understandable — then routes the altered data to the Netrunner's eyes and ears. The world perceived through the interface is real, because it directly plugs into his senses.
So why go through all the trouble to create interfaces? Why not just use a keyboard like the rest of the meat minds? Partially for the fun of it. But in addition, a realistic and dangerous interface gives the Netrunner an extra edge. It keeps him alert, involved and interested in his environment. After all; what would you react faster to-the word Demon appearing in the air in front of you, or a living, breathing, five-ton monster cracking a flaming whip over your head?
The Second GenerationEdit
The early interfaces were an art form; millions of programming hours were devoted each year in constructing accurate and interesting realities for Netrunning, using sophisticated artificial intelligence programs and random story generators. These interface programs functioned on a low end, narrow focus bandwidth, which could not carry much more information than an old fashioned computer modem of the 1990's. In addition to being limited in scope, these early interface programs were also unable to give the Netrunner a sense of his position in the real world beyond the computer screen.
Then, in 2014, the wizards of the Net achieved a major breakthrough — the Ihara-Crubb Transformation Algorithms. The I-C Transformations allowed a cyberdeck to extrapolate the pathways of the Net in relation to their "Realspace" coordinates, then generate a graphic model that could be perceived by an interface program. The results could be used as a navigational aid through the Net, as well as providing a sense of space and time not possible with earlier designs.
One of the other benefits of the I-C Transformations are that they allow you to translate the signal of your cyberdeck into a visible representation in the Net. This representation of yourself is known as your ICON.
Most things in the Net have some kind of ICON; even if one isn't specified, the I-C formulas will create a polygonal form to represent them. Your ICON is your personal symbol; it's what other Netrunners will talk to and relate with when they encounter you in Netspace. Your ICON can look like anything you want it to: armored techno-warrior, fantasy creature, bizarre shape or logo- even yourself. You can change your ICON any time you enter the Net. You can even disguise your ICON by using special programs for stealth and evasion. Choosing your ICON is one of the first things you'll decide when you jack in. Make sure it's got your personal style written all over it.
So what do you need to run the Net besides a cool brain and a hot interface? Plugging into the vast metaverse of the Net requires two additional and all important pieces of hardware.
The first is a set of neural or interface "plugs." Interface plugs are basically just that-plastic plugs built into the Netrunner's wrists, temples or back of neck, to be connected to a cybermodem by cables.
You can get by without plugs; all you'll need is a set of 'trodes. These are self sticking electrodes that pick up neural signals by skin inductance. They're slower and less responsive than plugs, but they are cheaper and don't have any humanity cost.
The other thing you'll need is a cyberdeck.