Facebook acquires startup working on mind-reading machines
Our fingers are the trusty conduits of our commands for the digital world, whether we’re swiping, tapping or even gesturing away on our mobile devices and computers. But a growing host of startups are betting on technologies that could come to replace them with electrical signals from the brain. Facebook has just pushed a few extra chips into this pot with the purchase of CTRL-labs, a young company developing brain-computer interfaces.
The acquisition is part of a wider push from the social media giant as it looks to explore how computers can be used to decode electrical signals from the brain. Generally speaking, these brainwaves could be used for all kinds of things, with helping amputees control prosthetic limbs or exoskeletons, a couple of particularly promising possibilities.
And Facebook, too, has previously backed research that has brought about some promising advances. Earlier this year, through a partnership with scientists at the University of California San Francisco, it showed off technology that could convert these brain signals into words and phrases in real time, which it billed as a world-first breakthrough.
Where that technology was geared towards giving sufferers of strokes and brain diseases their voices back, this latest development is part of Facebook’s focus on virtual and augmented reality. CTRL-labs, which is developing non-invasive brain-computer interfaces, will join the Facebook Reality Labs team, which has a focus on producing consumer-ready products.
In a Facebook post announcing the news, its VP of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth offers a few details on how it hopes to put the startup’s expertise to use. He describes a wristband that reads electrical signals generated by neurons in the spinal cord, with hopes of producing “this kind of tech at scale.”
These signals could be instructing hand muscles to perform specific maneuvers, like to click a mouse button, but instead the device would convert them into commands for digital devices.
“It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to,” Bosworth writes.
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
Source: Andrew Bosworth (Facebook)