Facebook Announces Brain-Computer Interface Project at F8

April 21, 2017 - 2 minutes read

The big reveal on day one of Facebook’s F8 developer conference was the company’s new augmented reality platform — maybe not the most mind-blowing news, but certainly an interesting direction for the company and an indication that all the Snapchat aping is building toward something. But as big as its AR aspirations are, they seem modest, even antiquated, when compared to the “direct brain interface” project Facebook unveiled on the second day of the conference. Sure, AR is pretty neat and may very well be the future, but having a computer translate your thoughts into text? That still sounds to most app developers like something out of sci-fi, like a technological advancement that’s still decades away.

But Facebook has 60 engineers tinkering away on “brain-computer speech-to-text interface” right now. Hatched in Building 8, the company’s top secret R&D lab, the project aims at developing tech that would make it possible to type the thoughts flowing through your head without having to rely on the middlemen of fingers or speech. The goal is to accomplish this without the use of implanted sensors. Facebook is optimistic that users will be able to dash off 100 words per minute with their minds in just a few years. That may seem soon to Las Vegas iPhone app developers, but when you consider Facebook’s massive size and resources, it starts to seem very plausible.

Building 8 head Regina Dugan hopes that thought-to-text tech could serve as “a speech prosthetic for people with communication disorders or a new means for input to AR.” Under her lead, Building 8 is also working on outlandish technology that would help deaf people hear through their skin, almost like aural braille. These are extraordinary undertakings with potentially big implications for MedTech app developers — not to mention the billion-plus people who use Facebook. Between this and Elon Musk’s Neuralink venture, it looks like brain-computer interface could be on the verge of a major breakthrough.

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