The power of thought: From your brain onto Facebook

The power of thought: From your brain onto Facebook

The power of thought: From your brain onto Facebook

Facebook is developing a technology that will enable people to type at computer just with the power of thought without using any peripherals, Regina Dugan, head of Building 8 research company said on Wednesday.

A view of the booth demonstrating Facebook Spaces at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 in San Jose, California.

Type with your brain.

Details were relatively scant as to what this would really look like, though a Stanford University experiment Dugan referenced relied on "an array of electrodes the size of a pea" implanted inside the subject's brain.

Facebook aims to create a system that allows people to type 100 words per minute, five times faster than typing on one's smartphone, using just your brain. "Even something as simple as a "yes" or "no" brain click could fundamentally change our capability", Dugan said.

Dugan was careful to head off concerns about the abuse of brain-reading technology.

Building 8's ambitious projects represent long-term research and investments, but they're part of a set of foundational technologies that Facebook is banking on to help foster global community and continue growing its network.

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Dugan demoed a "brain mouse for AR", which the company described as "a silent speech interface with the speed and flexibility of voice and privacy of text".

"I think at two years we should have a pretty good sense of whether it's possible to build them into consumer goods", she said. Over time, though, brain interfaces could be a way to "think" a message rather than typing it, or send a text in the middle of a conversation, Facebook thinks. So far, researchers have been successful in using it to allow people with disabilities to control paralyzed or prosthetic limbs. They could also be a way to communicate with others in virtual or augmented reality, which are technologies that Facebook has been pushing heavily.

Facebook describes it's new technology as a way to decode words that "you've already chose to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain".

"Understanding semantics means that one day you may be able to choose to share your thoughts independent of language". One goal is to facilitate communication between brain cells by hacking the "neural code" that lets people store and recall memories and information.

Facebook envisions technology that is far in advance of anything now possible.

Facebook Building 8 creators also worked with Braille - tiny bumps on paper that can be "read" by users without sight. 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. "The cochlea in your ear takes in sound and separates it into frequency components that are transmitted to the brain", said a Building 8 representative.

While neither of these projects will yield a gadget that you can buy, Dugan said she can imagine it happening eventually. Optical imaging techniques hold the most potential for providing the spatial and temporal resolution required for mapping brain signals, she added.

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