Technology

Facebook eyes technology to communicate by thought and touch

Facebook eyes technology to communicate by thought and touch”

Facebook wants to get all of that information out of the "brain" and into the world (to allow us to get it to others at will). "We have a goal of creating a system capable of typing 100 words per minute - five times faster than you can type on your smartphone - straight from your brain". "Even something as simple as a "yes" or "no" brain click could fundamentally change our capability", Dugan said.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

Facebook's so-called "silent speech interface" is one of several futuristic ideas the social media giant discussed during its annual F8 conference this week. Early partners include Nike Inc., Electronic Arts Inc.

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

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

A representative of Facebook's Building 8 explains that this project is built starting with knowledge of previous, similar projects. Each thing we learn about it seems to lead to more mysteries that we have yet to understand. The aim is to decode those words that the person decides to share and sends to the speech center of the brain.

Scrapping the need for physical or virtual keyboards in favor of direct-to-brain interface has been considered an inevitable eventuality by many scientists, mostly because it falls directly in line with the natural progression that human development follows.

Such brain-computer interface technology now involves implanting electrodes, but Facebook wants to use optical imaging to eliminate the need to surgically intrude on brains, according to Dugan.

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"Understanding semantics means that one day you may be able to choose to share your thoughts independent of language".

Dugan, who used to be the head of both DARPA and Google's Advanced Technologies and Projects division said in her keynote speech that actually getting access that brain information in consumers is a long way out. She showed video of a woman from a Stanford research experiment who could type eight words per minute using a small electrode implanted into her brain to move a computer cursor over a keyboard.

"This has the potential to be the most important application of artificial intelligence", he says. It's like using braille but through a system of actuators and sensors.

Don't expect to see any of this technology in the real-world this year, but Dugan said maybe in a couple of years. 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.

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The researchers think of this as a way to deliver language on the skin, hoping that eventually people will be able to use the method to distinguish between about 100 words. In order to assuage fears among users of ethics violations, Facebook will also create a panel to keep the technology in check.



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