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

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Facebook's goal, working with researchers at several US universities, is to make the system non-invasive, as well as fast enough so that people can type 100 words a minute just by thinking.

"You have many thoughts, you choose to share some of them".

Ms Dugan is the company's head of Building 8, the firm's hardware research lab. For instance, after a brain implant, a woman suffering from Lou Gehrig's is able to move a cursor around a screen fast enough to type eight words per minute, according to IEEE Spectrum.

Other ideas detailed at the company's developers conference in San Jose included work to allow people to "hear" through skin.

"We just want to be able to get those signals right before you actually produce the sound so you don't have to say it out loud anymore", he said. "We're working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today".

She showed the audience a video of a Facebook tester feeling "the acoustic shape" of words on her arm.

"We're talking about decoding those words".

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Facebook is looking at creating "silent-speech interfaces" based on sensors that could be worn, and made in quantity. People talking to a friend or family member face to face would no longer need to interrupt a conversation by picking up their smartphone to send a message. "Brain activity contains more information than what a word sounds like or how it is spelled", said Dugan during the keynote.

It's also trying to create hardware and software that would allow people to process language. Even a simple yes/no "brain click" would help make things like augmented reality feel much more natural. In interview with MIT Technology Review, Dugan said that two years should be enough time to tell whether it's viable to build neural interfaces into a consumer product.

Still, the end products produced by Dugan and her Building 8 teams could greatly enhance the ability of the disabled to see and hear.

"I suggest that 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".

Facebook Inc on Wednesday pulled aside the curtain on a secretive unit headed by a former chief of the Pentagon's research arm, disclosing that the social media company is studying ways for people to communicate by thought and touch.

The technology was still a few years away. CEO Mark Zuckerberg blogged today about the project stating that "eventually, we want to turn it [speechless communication] into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale". The job postings describe a two-year project within Building 8 that focuses on a "non-invasive" brain-computer interface. Dugan joined Facebook in 2016 from Google, where she led a similar group working on advanced projects; prior to that she was a director of DARPA, a U.S. Defense Department group with a similar mission.

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