Facebook gives peek inside unit studying brain-to-text technology

Facebook's Sci-Fi Plan for Typing with Your Mind and Hearing with Your Skin

Facebook's Sci-Fi Plan for Typing with Your Mind and Hearing with Your Skin

In a few years, she said, the team hopes to demonstrate a real-time silent speech system capable of delivering a hundred words per minute.

While such a project represents a "huge leap", the implications could be unsettling to consumers, many of whom think Facebook knows too much about their daily habits and actions - let alone their thoughts, says Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at eMarketer.

Facebook is apparently stocking up on talent to bypass that mismatch-on stage at F8, Dugan said Facebook has 60 engineers working on the problem.

"We're working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about five times faster than you can type on your phone today".

At the same time, these efforts raise hard questions related to patient privacy, as any brain-to-text system will essentially read a person's unspoken thoughts.

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"If we put these two things together, they suggest that one day not so far away, it may be possible for me to think in Mandarin and for you to feel it instantly in Spanish".

At the beginning of her talk, Dugan spoke of how smartphones have helped people connect with others around the globe, but caused us to neglect the world in front of us.

At the event, Dugan showed a video of a Facebook employee with a series of sensors connected to her arm. But "functioning" is somewhat deceptive, because we don't necessarily understand the signals coming from a mouse's brain, and certainly can't decode the rodent's thought.

Facebook describes it's new technology as a way to decode words that "you've already made a decision to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain".

"Implanted electrodes simply won't scale", Dugan said. People talking to a friend or family member face to face would no longer need to interrupt a conversation by picking up their smartphone to send a message.

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It's also trying to create hardware and software that would allow people to process language.

That being said Facebook is not only working on transmitting speech but also receiving it in an entirely new way as well.

Still, the end products produced by Dugan and her Building 8 teams could greatly enhance the ability of the disabled to see and hear.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Tuesday at the company's annual F8 developers' conference that the social-media giant would make its augmented-reality tools, which mix digital and physical spaces, available to third-parties to create custom masks, filters and other effects. She cautioned that the outcome is still years away, but the aim is clear.

Facebook started the Building 8 group past year, and put it in the hands of Dugan, who had previously led an advanced-technology projects group at Google. In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet Inc's Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

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