[There’s plenty of press coverage of events and announcements at this week’s F8 Facebook Developer Conference (see Wired on Facebook Spaces VR, The New York Times on AR, and The Guardian for 8 takeaways from the conference), but less attention has been given to the company’s work on brain-computer interfaces. This story is from The Verge, where it includes more images and a 0:15 minute video. –Matthew]
How Facebook is taking mind reading from sci-fi to reality
Regina Dugan: ‘This isn’t cocktail party talk.’
by Nick Statt
Apr 20, 2017
The rumblings started months ago. Through a series of peculiar job listings and key hires, it became clear Facebook was up to something unlike anything it had ever pursued. Building 8, as the company would name it, was to be a new division under famed technologist Regina Dugan, former director of the government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dugan had transitioned to the tech industry in 2012, serving as the head of Google’s experimental ATAP group. Among other things, it was responsible for the promising but now defunct Ara modular smartphone project.
On Wednesday, Facebook took the wraps off Building 8 and had Dugan tell the world know what exactly her fast-growing team has been working on. At the day-2 keynote at the company’s F8 developer conference in San Jose, Dugan announced Facebook’s plans for two ambitious projects: one to develop a system for letting you type with just your thoughts, and another to let you “hear” using vibrations on your skin. This would be done through brain-computer interfaces — devices that can read neural activity and translate it into digital signals, and vice versa.
The objective: to help Facebook take the lead in the burgeoning field of augmented reality, which integrates our online and offline lives using a variety of still yet-to-be-built devices. “The goal of an [augmented reality] system is to have a much more blended physical and digital world,” Dugan told The Verge in an interview. “I break that if I have an input mechanism that is not also blended between my physical and digital world.” In Facebook’s view, the road to AR will be paved with the smartphone camera. But eventually, it leads to the brain — which is where Dugan and her team come in. Read more on How Facebook is taking mind reading from sci-fi to reality…