Facebook’s annual developer conference took place this year on April 18th and 19th in San Jose, California and the company have shared its vision for the future of VR, 360-degree imaging, bots on Messenger, and more. One of the subjects of the conference was particularly interesting. Facebook unveiled a project from its secretive Building 8 research group that’s working to create a brain-computer interface that lets you type with your thoughts and hear through the skin.
This ambitious brain-computer-interface technology will one day let you communicate using only your mind, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
What if you could type directly from your brain, asked Regina Dugan, the leader of Facebook’s secretive Building 8 hardware research group. She provided the first official hints about what her organization has been working on.
A silent speech system
These two projects focused on building new capabilities for communication Regina called a silent speech systems. It offers the convenience of speaking with your voice but the privacy of sending a text message. Over the next 2 years, Building 8 research group will develop systems that demonstrate the capability to type at 100 words per minute by decoding neural activity devoted to speech.
As currently there are no non-invasive technologies that can do this, they will work on developing a non-invasive system that could one day become a speech prosthetic for people with communication disorders.
Such a system could allow the deaf and blind to communicate more easily. The company already has 60 engineers working on the systems, including what Dugan called “a brain mouse,” but is just getting started.
The second project is developing the hardware and software necessary to deliver language through the skin. It practically turning the two square meters of skin on the human body into a listening device. The firm has already demonstrated an “artificial cochlea” that can hear and is now working on using the sensors in the skin to interpret what is being said.
If we put these things together, it suggests 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, concluded Dugan.
On the other side, these projects raise hard questions related to patient privacy, as any brain-to-text system will essentially read a person’s unspoken thoughts. Also, such system could blur the definition between human and machine.