The idea of having a brain-computer interface is one that might seem to be popping up too early in the tech industry but entrepreneurs and corporations seem to be ambitious enough to bring it to life. This is especially because shortly after Elon Musk announced of his plans to make his own kind of “mind-reading” technology with Neuralink, Facebook has now revealed their own plans that might lead to similar results but by using methods that are totally different.
In support of a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, the two entities were able to develop an algorithm that decoded a small set of full, spoken words and phrases from brain activity in real-time. This work was obviously made successful through the partnership of willing patients who were undergoing surgery for epilepsy. And if that sounds too complex for you, Facebook was simply finding out a way for people to type with their brain without a brain implant of any kind.
And with the company choosing to progress with the project, the team just revealed that they want to integrate that technology with their AR glasses that they are currently still in the works. And while we might need to wait for like a decade till this new tech is successfully brought to life, it is known that people have been using brain-computer interfaces for a while now with the help of implanted electrodes to do simple things like feeding themselves.
But different from what we have now and what Elon’s Neuralink is working on, Facebook wants this technology to be completely wireless and use no implants, so AR glasses might seem like a reasonable choice to be used as an input device. So, yeah, to make it even simpler, Facebook wants to read your mind.
According to the company, “Being able to recognize even a handful of imagined commands, like ‘home,’ ‘select,’ and ‘delete,’ would provide entirely new ways of interacting with today’s VR systems—and tomorrow’s AR glasses,”
If this went totally well, this kind of tech could be useful even in fields like gaming where the experience could be made much more immersive especially if projects like the haptic feedback wearables would be integrated. Dare I say, games could be made more accessible even for people with certain disabilities, where instead of being required to press buttons, you could just think of a certain word and you immediately access your inventory screen.
But this does not mean we ignore the ethical issues that could emerge with this kind of technology. Apart from health factors, let’s not forget that this is the company that was slapped with a $5billion fine for giving out users’ private data. So, Facebook has a lot of work to do and not just in the technology’s development but also in earning our trust back enough for users to trust them with their brains.
But as Mark Chevillet, a Research Director at Facebook Reality Labs, says Facebook is willing to be as transparent as possible with this project so as to get as much feedback from the public as development progresses. Guess we’ll see what happens.