Facebook is working on a neural interface for a radical change in the way people interact with machines
Facebook social network is improving and finalizing not just its own website and services. The company is also busy with other projects, for example, open hardware for data centers, Internet drones and other interesting things. The other day it became known about the new development of Facebook, which is conducted by the closed research group Building 8. There is not much information about the project, but the main thing that is worth noting is that it’s a neurointerface.
Head of department Regina Dugan (by the way, the ex-head of DARPA and one of the Google research groups) stated that the purpose of the company’s work is to create an interface that allows tracking a simple idea or a yes-no solution. Despite the seeming simplicity, this technology can change the way people interact with technological products. According to Dugan, now all the powers of her group are thrown at this project.
Developers describe what they are working on as a “neurocomputer mouse”, guided by thoughts. It can not do anything particularly complicated, just like a normal mouse, but this will be enough to simplify the interaction of man and technology. In addition, this same solution can also be used in virtual reality to track movements of the hands and other movements of the human body. Something similar is already being used by Microsoft in their HoloLens video glasses. In them you can stretch your arm forward and make an imaginary “clicking on the mouse button.” The mouse here is imaginary, but the action produced by the person is transformed by glasses into a real signal for the PC. As a result, the computer software responds as if the real mouse button was pressed.
Virtual technology from Facebook can be useful, for example, for paralyzed or partially paralyzed people. They can’t click on the mouse button or work with the keyboard , but imagining such a click – as many as they like.
Dugan stressed that we are not talking about reading thoughts or “peeping”. All the work of the system will be dedicated only to read a certain thought about a certain action, and that’s all. “We plan to decipher the words that you have already decided to pronounce by sending them to the speech center of the brain,” the official announcement reads. “Think of it as looking at a lot of photos, among which you chose one to share it with other people. Likewise, you have many thoughts, among which you need to choose one. ”
According to the representatives of the company, reading of the thoughts – is the next generation technology. Speech, voice control – is the last century. “Our brain generates and transmits in a second as much data as weight of 4 HD movies,” says Mark Zuckerberg. “The human brain can transmit about 1 terabit of data per second, while speech can be compared to a modem of the last century, capable of transmitting and receiving 40-60 bits per second.”
Facebook reminded users of a system developed by a group of scientists from Stanford. They were able to create a software and hardware platform that allows completely paralyzed people to type text with the help of thought, and the speed is quite high – about 8 words per minute (after training). According to Dugan, her company wants to create a system with which it will be possible to type about 100 words per minute.
The project itself does not imply the use of invasive implants of any type. It’s not about putting something into the human brain. Specialists plan to work with the analysis of brain electrical activity and the transformation of signals and the formation of images of active groups of neurons based on this analysis. The main element of the device for “reading thoughts” is likely to be a helmet with electrodes. So far, specialists taking part in the project are conducting research, it is still far from the practical realization of the idea.
Facebook has more than 60 scientists and engineers in this project from a variety of companies and organizations, including the University of Berkeley, Johns Hopkins Hospital and others.
The plan for the next two years – creation of a prototype of a working device, which will be tested during clinical trials. The long-term goal is the creation of a non-invasive “neuro-helmet”, which can be used under normal conditions.