From Fantasy to Reality: Mind-reading, Facebook’s new venture.

Its’s not been a few years since Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality tech took over the industry. Every major tech industry adapted these technologies to their products. Still these exciting products have not commercialized enough to reach the general public and Facebook has now set eyes on a completely new concept.

Yes what you have read in the title is true. Facebook is planning to develop BCI (Brain Computer Interface) based products. Machines that interact with your brain.

The buzz started months ago. Through a series of peculiar job listings and key hires, it became clear Facebook was up to something unlike anything it had ever pursued. Facebook’s Building 8, is a new division under Regina Dugan a famed technologist and former director of the government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dugan had transitioned to the tech industry in 2012, serving as the head of Google’s experimental ATAP group. Among other things, she was responsible for the promising but now defunct Ara modular smartphone project.

Dugan announced Facebook’s plans for two ambitious projects: one to develop a system for letting you type with just your thoughts, and another to let you “hear” using vibrations on your skin. This would be done through brain-computer interfaces — devices that can read neural activity and translate it into digital signals, and vice versa.

Dugan also says that Facebook’s goal is to develop something called the “brain click” — a way to complete tasks in augmented reality using your mind. You could brain click to dismiss a notification that popped up on your AR glasses, for example. Researchers at Building 8, who have teamed up with medical institutions around the country, want to turn the brain into an input device, starting with letting people type with their thoughts.

Building 8’s first two-year goal is to improve the rate at which people can type with their thoughts to 100 words per minute using implanted electrodes. At Stanford University, implanted electrode arrays inside paralyzed patients allow them to type with their thoughts at up to eight words per minute. To increase typing speeds, Dugan and her team are monitoring medical trials and working with partner institutions including UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The second goal of Building 8 over the next two years is to determine whether typed thoughts can be read non-invasively — which is to say, without having to implant a device in the brain. That would lower the cost of the device dramatically, and make it available (and desirable) to a much wider group of people.

Instead, the company is exploring how optical imaging could get real-time data from the brain and translate it into words. The resulting device could be something like a neural cap worn on the head, or some type of band that stretches around the back of the skull.


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