20 Apr The future is here, Facebook is building brain-computer interfaces
Text with your mind
It’s finally here! The day I’ve been waiting for after a decade of reading dystopian fiction—mind to text messaging. Well, at least the first steps to getting there.
On Wednesday, Facebook announced at F8 they have a team of 60 engineers building a brain-computer interface.
Remote control brain
This would theoretically let you control augmented and virtual reality with your mind. No typing, no screen, no controller.
It’s “direct brain interface,” which uses optical imaging to scan your brain, detecting internal speech.
The interface would scan your brain hundreds of times per second, translating thoughts to text.
Regina Dugan, Facebook’s R&D division Building 8 head, said the goal is to reach a typing speed of 100 words per minute. This is five times faster than how long it takes to type on a phone. Oh and guess what? No surgical implants required.
Building 8’s project began six months ago, and they are now working with several universities. John Hopkins Medicine and John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are all involved in the project so far.
The researchers specialize in machine learning, decoding speech and language with optical neuroimaging systems.
Their technologies utilize advanced spatial resolution and neural prosthetics to interpret brain signals.
Add it to the list of hesitations about cyborgs
In all my excitement, I failed to consider that this is some people’s futuristic robot nightmare. Don’t worry, Facebook figured you would have some doubts. They assured TechCrunch that the technology won’t decode any random thought.
You have to decide to send the thought by sending it to the speech center of your brain in order to share.
Reassured? No, it still sounds kind of sketchy I suppose. Well, how about a way for humans to hear through skin? Building 8 is also working on prototypes that allow your skin to mimic hearing. The technology lets people hear through their skin by using a system that simulates the cochlea in your ear.
If you’re interested, Facebook is looking to hire a Brain-Computer Interface Engineer. Until recently, Building 8’s purpose was kind of secret. As in, no one really knew what they were doing and then some job listings showed up regarding machine learning and neuroimaging jobs.
This is all very secret lair sci-fi villain behavior, but I’m down.
Sure, this opens up some horrifying implications about our future as robo-human hybrid cyborgs. I don’t have faith in Facebook to execute this in a way that isn’t unsettling. But really, texting would be so much easier if we didn’t have to type with our thumbs.
Plus, developing these technologies would be a huge breakthrough for anyone currently unable to communicate through mainstream means.
We’re already in a world where implanted sensors allow paralyzed individuals to type with their minds. New research into brain-computer interface could mean this is possible without surgical implants.
Sci-fi in real life
Okay fine, I’ll admit it is a bit freaky. Ten years ago, Facebook hardly seemed likely to harbor in a sci-fi revolution. Now they’re at the forefront of dozens of innovative projects. Will these products have a sinister impact on our lives? Probably. But just like everything else Facebook does, we’ll complain for a while then get used to it.
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