Facebook: A Brain-Computer Interface For Typing

Facebook: A Brain-Computer Interface For Typing
April 19, 2017

Today Facebook revealed its has a team of 60 engineers working on building a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind without invasive impants.


Eventually, brain-computer interfaces could let people control augmented reality and virtual reality expereinces with their mind instead of a screen or controller. Facebook’s CEO and CTO teased these details of this “direct brain interface” technology over the last two days at Facebook’s F8 conference. Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s R&D division Building 8, will be on stage this morning to present specifics Facebook’s brain-computer interface plans.


We’ll updated this story as soon as more details are announced today.


To underscore the gravity of such mind-reading technology, Dugan started her talk by saying she’s never seen something as powerful as the smartphone “that didn’t have unintended consequences”. She mentioned that we’d all be better off if we looked up from our phones every so often. But at the same time, she believes technology can foster empathy, education, and global community.


“What if you could type directly from your brain?” Dugan asked. Dugan showed a video of a paralyzed medical patients that can type using their mind thanks to implanted sensors.


Facebook is looking for Brain-Computer Interface Engineer “who will be responsible for working on a 2-year B8 project focused on developing advanced BCI technologies.” Responsibilities include “Application of machine learning methods, including encoding and decoding models, to neuroimaging and electrophysiological data.” It’s also looking for aNeural Imaging Engineer who will be “focused on developing novel non-invasive neuroimaging technologies” who will “Design and evaluate novel neural imaging methods based on optical, RF, ultrasound, or other entirely non-invasive approaches”.


Yesterday during the F8 day one keynote, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would share information on “direct brain interfaces that are going to eventually one day let you communicate using only your mind.”


Elon Musk has been developing his own startup called Neuralink for creating brain interfaces.

Facebook Building 8 R&D division head Regina Dugan.


Facebook hired Dugan last year to lead its secretive new Building 8 research lab. She had previously run Google’s Advanced Technology And Products division, and was formerly a head of DARPA.


Facebook built a special Area 404 wing of its Menlo Park headquarters with tons of mechanical engineering equipment to help Dugan’s team quickly prototype new hardware. In December, it signed rapid collaboration deals with Stanford, Harvard, MIT, and more to get academia’s assistance.


Facebook has built hardware before to mixed success. It made an Android phone with HTC called the First to host its Facebook Home operating system. That flopped. Since then Facebook proper has turned its attention away from consumer gadgetry and towards connectivity. It’s built the Terragraph Wi-Fi nodesProject ARIES antennaAquila solar-powered drone and its own connectivity-beaming satellite from its internet access initiative — though that blew up on the launch pad when the SpaceX vehicle carrying it exploded.


Facebook has built and open-sourced its Surround 360 camera. As for back-end infrastructure, it’s developed an open rack network switch called Wedge, the Open Vault for storage, plus sensors for the Telecom Infra Project’s OpenCellular platform. And finally, through its acquisition of Oculus, Facebook has built wired and mobile virtual reality headsets.

Facebook’s Area 404 hardware lab contains tons of mechanical engineering and prototyping equipment.


But as Facebook grows, it has the resources and talent to try new approaches in hardware. With over 1.8 billion users connected to just its main Facebook app, the company has a massive funnel of potential guinea pigs for its experiments.

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