Saturday, 24 June, 2017

Facebook's moonshot projects: typing from your brain and 'hearing' with your skin

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
Heather Davidson | 20 April, 2017, 09:31

Facebook wants you to use your brain to interact with your computer.

Facebook started the Building 8 group a year ago, and put it in the hands of Dugan, who had previously led an advanced-technology projects group at Google. "We think optical imaging is the best place to start".

The company's aim is to develop a system that will let people type straight from their brain about five times faster than they can type on their phone today, which will be eventually turned into wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale.

We know from the Tadoma method, developed in the early 20th century based off the experience of Helen Keller, that deaf and blind children could learn and communicate through slight pressure changes created by puffs of air and vibrations felt by their hands placed over a person's throat and jaw.

Some day, Dugan projects, this type of silent communication could have even more widespread benefits, such as not being separated with language barriers. "We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts", she said.

The company is investing in a number of foundational technologies over the next 10 years, including connectivity, artificial intelligence, and virtual and augmented reality, Schroepfer said on the concluding day of the conference.

"I think at two years we should have a pretty good sense of whether it's possible to build them into consumer goods", she said.

Other ideas detailed at the company's developers conference in San Jose included work to allow people to "hear" through skin. Share thoughts independent of language. In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet Inc's Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. It turns out that her plans for Facebook are as audacious as you might have imagined when she joined.

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

They also play into the vision of CEO Mark Zuckerberg to increase the scope of the social network beyond its 1.8 billion users.

Dugan also played a video of an engineer who has learned to "listen" with her skin.

Facebook says its technology will act like the cochlea part of the ear, which translates sound into frequencies that are sent to the brain and decoded.

The development efforts include systems that will allow people to type using their thoughts - or hear through their skin.

Facebook's most-advanced platform isn't a new messenger bot, app, or even a solar-powered internet drone, it's the human brain itself.

The concept, which it talked about but did not demonstrate, seems quite creepy right off the bat, but unlike Elon Musk's neural lace, Facebook's interface wouldn't require any implants inside the brain.

[Screenshots: Facebook] As Dugan argued on stage, the human mind has enough bandwidth to stream 40 ultra HD movies at a time (a rate of about one terabyte per second).

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