Facebook Is Working on Some Brainy Technology

Illustration by James Bareham  The Verge

Researchers at Stanford University, for example, have shown that a brain-to-computer interface can enable people with paralysis to type via direct brain control, using electrode arrays placed in the brain to record signals from the motor cortex that controls muscle movement.

Last year, Facebook poached Dugan, who helped shape Google initiatives such as Project Tango (3-D mapping) and Project Ara (tools for building modular smartphones), to head Building 8, a research-and-product-development group considered vital to Facebook's 10-year technology road map.

"Optical imaging is a good place to start", she said wryly, before adding that part of the research required "filtering for quasi-ballistic photons". This system has a goal of typing 100 words per minute straight from the speech center in your brain. "To be clear", she said, "we are not talking about decoding your random thoughts".

It would also have the potential to capture concepts and semantics associated with words people are thinking, making language differences irrelevant by enabling sharing of what is in mind, Dugan said.

These dreams are still far from reality and Facebook's success isn't certain although Dugan said she was optimistic.

Dugan's emphasis on thought-typing's tie to voluntary human decisions could be the foundation of Facebook's "trust us" pitch for such technology. "Even something as simple as a "yes/no" brain click or a "brain mouse" would be transformative".

That tech doesn't yet exist, but the company says it has over 60 scientists working on it now.

The project will rely on non-invasive sensors shipped at scale.


While this is just the beginning of being able to "hear with our skin" we know that as technology continues to grow it will be a matter of time before we will be able to transmit our thoughts through air and hear songs by just laying our fingers on a surface.

Before joining Google, Dugan ran the Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, devoted to developing technology for the United States military.

"Is it a little terrifying?" Facebook is hoping to replicate what the cochlea in your ear does-takes sound and separates into frequencies transmitted to the brain-except via your skin.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Tuesday at the company's annual F8 developers' conference that the social-media giant would make its augmented-reality tools, which mix digital and physical spaces, available to third-parties to create custom masks, filters and other effects.

The system uses braille-like stimulations on the skin to convey words.

The concept, which it talked about but did not demonstrate, seems quite creepy right off the bat, but unlike Elon Musk's neural lace, Facebook's interface wouldn't require any implants inside the brain.

"Our brains have the ability to construct language from components", Dugan said.

Another innovation Facebook's working on is the ability to "hear through your skin", says Ms Dugan.

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