Facebook gives peek inside unit studying brain-to-text technology

  • Facebook gives peek inside unit studying brain-to-text technology

Facebook gives peek inside unit studying brain-to-text technology

These dreams are still far from reality and Facebook's success isn't certain although Dugan said she was optimistic.

On Wednesday at its annual F8 developer conference, the company revealed two of the six projects that are under way, and they sound lot science fiction.

Last year, Facebook poached Dugan, who helped shape Google initiatives such as Project Tango (3-D mapping) and Project Ara (tools for building modular smartphones), to head Building 8, a research-and-product-development group considered vital to Facebook's 10-year technology road map.

Building 8, which was created at last year's F8, has been working on a "brain-computer interface" for several months, Dugan said.

[Screenshots: Facebook] The second project Dugan discussed is Project: Hear With Your Skin.

Facebook says it is collaborating with Johns Hopkins, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco, on the project, which Chevillet says the work will focus on finding a way to use light, like LEDs or lasers, to sense neural signals emanating from the cerebral cortex.

It is supposed to only detect activity in a very specific region of the brain where thoughts are translated into speech.

Such a device-a headband or some sort of cap-could be useful to people who are so severely paralyzed that they can't communicate.

Such technology could let people fire off text messages or emails by thinking, instead of needing to interrupt what they are doing to use smartphone touchscreens, for example. "We are wired to communicate and connect". "We're talking about decoding those words, the ones you already made a decision to share, by sending them to the speech center of your brain". DARPA, which Dugan used to head, has invested heavily in brain-computer interface technologies to do things like cure mental illness and restore memories to soldiers injured in war.

Facebook envisions technology that is far in advance of anything now possible. Inspired by the Tadoma method developed by Hellen Keller-which allows a blind and deaf person to learn to "hear" and speak simply by touching the throat of someone who is talking-it's a combination of hardware and software that could allow humans to discern vocalizations simply by feeling those vibrations, rather than literally hearing them.

It would also have the potential to capture concepts and semantics associated with words people are thinking, making language differences irrelevant by enabling sharing of what is in mind, Dugan said.

To do this, the researchers are taking a spoken word-like "black"-and separating it into its frequency components, then delivering those frequencies to the actuators on her arm, Dugan said". The first is their project to have humans be able to type "100 words a minute" using only brain waves utilizing "non-invasive technology".

"One day not so far away, it may be possible for me to think in Mandarin and for you to feel it instantly in Spanish", said Dugan.

While neither of these projects will yield a gadget that you can buy, Dugan said she can imagine it happening eventually.

"We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts; that is more than many of us want to know", Dugan quipped.