Facebook is turning its attention to “silent speech communications”, working on a system that will let people type words on a computer using only their brains.
The company made the announcement during the last day of its annual F8 conference on Wednesday (19 April), and was quick to assuage users of what the project means for their privacy.
60 engineers are currently working on the technology from clandestine Building 8 – Facebook’s innovative product research and development hub.
Regina Dugan, who heads up Building 8, told attendees Facebook was building a “brain-computer speech-to-text interface”, in order to make communication via technology less invasive.
Saying that she believes the smartphone has “cost us something”, Dugan said: “It has allowed us to connect with people far away from us too often at the expense of people sitting right next to us.
She continued: “We know intuitively and from experience that we’d all be better off if we looked up a little more often,” billing the firm’s latest experiment as a way of streamlining daily communications.
Instead of planting implants in users’ brains, Facebook intends to create non-invasive wearable sensors that can measure brain activity hundreds of times per second and decode brain signals associated with language in real time.
Aware of the questions such an announcement might pose about user privacy and the ability to hyper-target ads based on decoded thoughts, the social giant has sought to make it clear that the system won’t be about interpreting random thoughts, but rather making it easier to type out words or phrases users were going to say or physically type anyway.
“No such technology exists today; we’ll need to develop one,” said Dugan.
While it’s not yet clear when Facebook’s direct brain interface will launch, the company made advancements in augmented reality the focus of its F8 speeches.
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