Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, on Wednesday, had many interesting ideas. But certainly, the creepiest and most ambitious one was Facebook’s own “brain-to-computer interface” that would allow its users to write on the platform directly through one’s brain.
The idea is similar to what, Regina Dugan, the head of the company’s secretive hardware R&D division, asked people,
“What if you could type directly from your brain?”
Dugan then revealed a video demo of a woman “typing” eight words per minute using nothing but her brain. Dugan claimed that in a few years, their real-time speech system would be capable of typing over a hundred words per minute.
“That’s five times faster than you can type on your smartphone, and it’s straight from your brain,” she said. “Your brain activity contains more information than what a word sounds like and how it’s spelled; it also contains semantic information of what those words mean.”
In the second video, she demonstrated a technology that allowed people to “listen” to human speech through vibrations on human skin. This tech can be a godsend for people with listening disabilities and act as a high-tech Braille that you use with your body rather than your fingers. An armband using actuators and sensors send signals to a woman who was able to recognize a tactile vocabulary of nine different words.
“Our world is both digital and physical,” she said. “Our goal is to create and ship new, category-defining consumer products that are social first, at scale.”
Facebook’s Building 8 is in competition with a multitude of DARPA projects that also use brain-computer interface technology and have come up with technologies to control paralyzed or prosthetic limbs. But what Facebook is attempting is more difficult than stimulating the brain’s motor cortex.
The final goal is to make people spend more time on Facebook,
“Our brains produce enough data to stream 4 HD movies every second. 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,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
“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. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale. Even a simple yes/no ‘brain click’ would help make things like augmented reality feel much more natural” he added.
Mind to mind communication always has been the favorite topic of the science fiction writers, but it seems it might be closer to reality than we ever expected!