Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Science | By Carlton Santiago

Facebook Works on Mind-reading Technology

Facebook Works on Mind-reading Technology

Facebook views AR and VR as the futrue, but its plans go beyond just creating filters and amusing memes.

The end goal is to build an online world that feels more immersive and real-no doubt so that you spend more time on Facebook. Regina Dugan, head of Building 8, spent some time at F8 explaining the initiative. According to a source, the social media company is building a secretive team of engineers which have been tasked to develop a "brain-computer interface" based on neuroimaging technology that will be used for a so-called "communications system of the future". Eventually, they want to allow people to think something and send the thought to someone's skin.

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Facebook launched the research shop, called Building 8, a year ago to conduct long-term work that might lead to hardware products. 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. Dugan has acknowledged the possibility of failure, although optimistically she said, "We're just getting started". In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet Inc's Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

As Dugan pointed out the idea is not to decode random thoughts, but rather speech as the brain interprets it, these being the words or thoughts one is sending to the speech centre of the brain. "The problem is that the best way we have to get information out into the world - speech - can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem", Mark Zuckerberg shared in a Facebook post. Additionally, they will allow people to think something in one language and have a person receive the thought in an entirely different language. Their aim is to create a system that is capable of typing 100 words in a minute straight from your brain that too without burring a hole in your skull (like the traditional sensors that are directly connected to the brain). The technology sounds like something out of science fiction, but Dugan revealed that test subjects using brain implants are already able to type up to eight words per minute, though she didn't say how accurate the system was at the moment. "Even a simple yes/no "brain click" would help make things like augmented reality feel much more natural", Zuckerberg wrote. To achieve sophisticated brain control with today's technology requires the implanting of a computer chip into the brain, something Ms Dugan joked "simply won't scale".

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