Facebook has announced to be working on a technology that could allow people to type by just thinking about something.
The revelation emerged during the social network’s annual F8 conference in San Jose, last Wednesday.
According to Recode, Regina Dugan, who is in charge of Facebook’s moonshot factory Building 8, asked,”What if you could type directly from your brain?”
The question was not asked in jest. The company is actually trying to bring about something that would make that possible.
Per se, brain-computers interfaces already exist. Dugan herself gave the example of an American woman who could type messages —by the unimpressive tune of eight words per minute—through an electrode planted in her brain.
But the Menlo Park-based giant aims for something decidedly faster: about 1,00 words per minute.
“[This could| become a speech prosthetic for people with communication disorders or a new means for input to AR,” Dugan wrote on her Facebook page. “Even something as simple as a ‘yes/no’ brain click or a ‘brain mouse’ would be transformative.”
What such an effort would require is a technology able to interpret your thoughts and transform them into words.
Dugan explained that this could be accomplished by focusing on the specific area of the brain where thought are processed and transformed into speech. She reassured that Facebook was not after our private, random thoughts. (Yeah, right.)
Facebook seems to be rather serious about this, having assigned 60 researchers to the project, under the direction of erstwhile-DARPA director Dugan.
“Is it a little terrifying? Of course,” Dugan said at F8. “If we fail, it’s gonna suck.”
A Vox article has questioned some of Dugan’s premises about the feasibility of the whole thing. MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe told the website that current EEG sensors are not accurate enough to pick the meaning of brain signals down to the single word.
What they could be able to do, instead, is understanding where users are directing they attention— as in, what key they are looking at, or where they want to move the mouse.
If these devices were elements in an Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality world, rather than real pieces of hardware, brain-typing might be possible in some way— although not at the speed Dugan said to be aiming for.
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