Facebook gives peek inside unit studying brain-to-text technology

Facebook gives peek inside unit studying brain-to-text technology


At the event, he stated that we would "hear from Regina Dugan about some of the work that [they are] doing to build even further out beyond augmented reality, and that includes work around direct brain interfaces that are going to, eventually, one day, let you communicate using only your mind".

Facebook's far-out projects are the latest efforts by a major Silicon Valley company to push the boundaries of human capabilities through technology. "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. Dugan and Facebook are actually making technology meant to do just that.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com. But what Facebook is proposing is perhaps more radical-a world in which social media doesn't require picking up a phone or tapping a wrist watch in order to communicate with your friends; a world where we're connected all the time by thought alone. Early partners include Nike Inc., Electronic Arts Inc.

Well aware of such concerns, Dugan stressed that Facebook is taking a measured approach to these new brain-computer interfaces.

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.

Currently, we know very little about B8, as none of their projects have been officially detailed, but rumors are swirling, and it's not like we don't know anything. The approach would decode words that you've already made a decision to share. We have only several thoughts out of many we'd actually like to share, Dugan said, and Facebook is not interested in broadcasting the random noise in your head.

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"Just as you take many photos and decide to share some of them, so too, you have many thoughts and decide to share some of them in the form of the spoken word", Dugan said. Dugan joined Facebook in 2016 from Google, where she led a similar group working on advanced projects; prior to that she was a director of DARPA, a U.S. Defense Department group with a similar mission.

They have developed actuators that allow people to "hear" through their skin.

We'll need new, non-invasive sensors that can measure brain activity hundreds of times per second, from locations precise to millimetres and without signal distortions.

Dugan adds that it's also possible to "listen" to human speech by using your skin.

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

But Dugan did stress that Facebook isn't blindly pursuing technological advancement without considering the implications. It's also unclear how many people will be willing to link their brain to Facebook's software - especially given that Facebook's advertising-centric business model involves learning as much as possible about each of its users. Share thoughts independent of language. "All AI technologies should be applied as a win-win-win for humans".

  • Kyle Warner