Facebook's Building 8 Envisions Using Brain Waves to Type Words

Ausiliatrice Cristiano
Aprile 20, 2017

Facebook Inc. wants to read your mind.

For their beginning work, they hope to allow all humans to "type" and "click" through our brains in order to interact with our technology.

Facebook's research unit Building 8 is working to make it possible for people to type using signals from their brains, part of the lab's broader effort to free people from their phones. "We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts", she said.

A basic demonstration of how wireless brain interfaces can work.

Billionaire executive Elon Musk has launched a competing project, Neuralink Corp., with the aspiration to upload and download thoughts through implanted tiny brain electrodes. "We're working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today". She presented a video showing a Facebook employee who was able to differentiate between three shapes, colors, and actions, and even understand them when chained together.

Such brain-computer interface technology now involves implanting electrodes, but Facebook wants to use optical imaging to eliminate the need to surgically intrude on brains, according to Dugan. The approach would decode words that you've already made a decision to share. This is about decoding the words you've already chose to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain.

Dugan says that "no one has the right" to decode your silent thoughts, but the fact that's even something that has to be said says something scary about where technology is headed.

At Facebook's annual developer conference, F8, on Wednesday, the group unveiled what may be Facebook's most ambitious-and creepiest-proposal yet. Now Facebook is developing a silent speech interface with the 'speed and flexibility of voice with the privacy of text.' Facebook also clarified they are creating the technology to discern between your private thoughts and those you want to share.

Facebook shared plans to develop a non-invasive brain-speech interface that would create a system-via sensors-to enable people to communicate without speech.

"One day not so far away, it may be possible for me to think in Mandarin and for you to feel it instantly in Spanish", said Dugan.

Regina Dugan, who leads Facebook's Building 8 group, gave a remarkable marketing spiel on the company's efforts in shaping the future of human-computer interaction and imagining a future where you can control AR glasses with the brain. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale.

Facebook started the Building 8 group previous year, and put it in the hands of Dugan, who had previously led an advanced-technology projects group at Google.

Dugan previously ran the USA military's research lab, DARPA, and then worked at Google before joining Facebook, and her work thus far has been kept private.

But consider this: Those leading Silicon Valley think they can master an computer's interaction with the human brain, but the companies they lead can't yet master virtual reality without people getting sick, nor can they build an augmented reality headset, or code safe self-driving cars.

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