Facebook insists that its forthcoming wearable technology that reads electrical signals from your brain will not actually read your mind.
The tech giant is developing a neural wristband that allows users to do things such as type by moving their fingers — without using a keyboard — and watch the results appear on an augmented reality interface.
The device taps into the nerves outside your brain that animate your hand and your fingers to determine what a user is trying to do, according to Thomas Reardon, Facebook Reality Labs director of neuromotor interfaces.
“This is not akin to mind reading,” Facebook said on its blog. “Think of it like this: you take many photos and choose to share only some of them. Similarly, you have many thoughts and you choose to act on only some of them. When that happens, your brain sends signals to your hands and fingers telling them to move in specific ways in order to perform actions like typing and swiping. This is about decoding those signals at the wrist — the actions you’ve already decided to perform — and translating them into digital commands for your device.”
Hrvoje Benko, Facebook Reality Labs research science director, said in a video on Facebook’s blog that he thinks the “nearer-term” research producing new devices such as the neural wristband will lead to a “mixed-reality” computer platform powered by artificial intelligence.
One of the potential enhancements of such a computing platform is to allow people to act quicker on the instructions coming from their brains. Electromyography uses sensors, think electrodes, to translate motor nerve signals, and Mr. Benko said he thinks it can make its users click, type, and work faster.
“It’s highly likely that ultimately you’ll be able to type at high speed with [electromyography] on a table or your lap — maybe even at higher speed than is possible with a keyboard today,” Facebook said on its blog. “Initial research is promising.”
Facebook’s work on augmented reality could receive scrutiny at next week’s congressional hearing with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Alongside Twitter’s and Google’s CEOs, Mr. Zuckerberg is set to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about how alleged misinformation and disinformation affect users on his platforms.
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