Facebook details its plans for a brain-computer interface

Posted April 21, 2017

Building 8 is said to be working on multiple projects, including a system that would enable users to type words using only their minds.

It's not entirely clear what Facebook plans to do with this technology or how exactly when it thinks it'll be ready.

What if you could type with your brain?

The project is part of Facebook's consumer hardware lab known as Building 8, as Business Insider first reported in January. It's a way to communicate with the speed and flexibility of your voice and the privacy of text.

Dugan says that "no one has the right" to decode your silent thoughts, but the fact that's even something that has to be said says something scary about where technology is headed.

Dugan referred to research at Stanford University, which has allowed a paralysed woman to type at about eight words per minute directly from her brain.

Ultimately, the mind-reading technology could help people type 100 words a minute from their minds - about five times faster than we type from our smartphones, Dugan told developers at the conference in San Jose, Calif. The fact that Building 8 just formed a year ago and already has two promising projects in the prototype state speaks volumes about the researchers behind it Dugan herself, whose history includes tenures with Alphabet and the United States Department of Advanced Research And Projects, also known as DARPA.

As if thought-to-text wasn't enough, Building 8 is also working on a system that allows communication through touch. "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. Additionally, they will allow people to think something in one language and have a person receive the thought in an entirely different language. Its system will instead only decode words that a person has already made a decision to share by sending them to the speech center of their brain.

'For the massive use of such technology we can not use brain implants, but non-invasive sensors that control brain activity at high speed and in real time, ' she said.

Showing a video of a patient with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease, Dugan pointed out that scientists have already found a way to do this but it requires surgery where electrodes are implanted into the brain. Braille took advantage of that by helping people interpret small bumps on a surface as language in the 19 century, but since then techniques have emerged that show the brain's ability to reconstruct language from components. On Wednesday, the company revealed the details of two of the six projects that are underway.