Facebook details its plans for a brain-computer interface

Facebook's Regina Dugan took the wraps off the company's mind-reading ambitions on Wednesday.   Facebook

Facebook's Regina Dugan took the wraps off the company's mind-reading ambitions on Wednesday. Facebook

Dugan said that Facebook had already developed a basic system that could let a person feel vibrations corresponding to a handful of different words. Think of it like this: You take many photos and choose to share only some of them. Facebook showed a video of a woman with ALS who, with the company's implants, is able to type eight words a minute without moving her fingers. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale.

The technology was still a few years away. Additionally, she said, this technology could serve as a "speech prosthetic" for patients with paralysis. The challenge, Dugan said, is getting the sensors to only pick up on the thoughts you want to transform into text or commands, instead of your entire stream of consciousness. Separately, Building 8 also is working on technology that could help people "hear" with their skin, Dugan said. "We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts", she said. "Even something as simple as a "yes/no" brain click or a "brain mouse" would be transformative". "It's not something any of us should have a right to know". Google parent company Alphabet has a life sciences division called Verily, which is working on projects like high-tech contact lenses that can measure wearers' glucose levels.

We will do this via non-invasive sensors that can be shipped at scale.

Dugan stressed that the technology would not be used to invade your thoughts, and Facebook released an official announcement simplifying how it all works. And Facebook spent the better part of its F8 presentations talking about its plans for augmented reality; the company envisions a world where smartphones will be replaced by smart glasses and keyboards may not exist. Doing so accurately, in real time, at the rate Facebook proposes, would represent a huge step forward over what neuroscience has shown is possible so far.

"It's incredibly exciting to do this work but is it a little terrifying?", Of course", she said.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has not been shy about his scientific ambitions - but most of those have been linked to his philanthropic efforts, specifically a pledge with his wife Priscilla to spend $3 billion over the next decade trying to cure all disease.

Facebook isn't only planning to listen to your thoughts.

Building 8 chief Regina Dugan revealed that her team of 60 scientists is working on a non-invasive system capable of typing 100 words per minute using only brain waves. 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. Brain-computer interface technology is still in its infancy.

We learned from Business Insider today that Facebook is now working on some seriously incredible new technology.

Details were relatively scant as to what this would really look like, though a Stanford University experiment Dugan referenced relied on "an array of electrodes the size of a pea" implanted inside the subject's brain.

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