Facebook out to read minds
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivered the opening keynote at the F8 Developer Conference that runs through April 19.
Facebook Inc. wants to read your mind. However, Dugan emphasised that they are not discussing decoding one's random thoughts, but thoughts that people would actually like, much like the photos they decide to share online.
That is why we love great writers and poets, because they are just a little bit better at compressing the fullness of a thought into words. Electroencephalogram tech - known as EEG - can monitor electric impulses in the brain, but only for very basic, structured output - such as moving a dot up or down a computer screen. Facebook's goal, working with researchers at several USA universities, is to make the system non-invasive, as well as fast enough so that people can type 100 words a minute just by thinking. "This matters. If we fail this is going to suck".
In a video demo, Dugan showcased a few examples including a woman with ALS who is able to type eight words per minute directly using her brain via an implanted sensor.
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Today, we have a team of over 60 scientists, engineers and system integrators from UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis specialising in machine learning methods for decoding speech and language, in optical neuroimaging systems that push the limits of spatial resolution and in the most advanced neural prosthetics in the world.
"You have many thoughts, you choose to share some of them". The aim is to decode those words that the person decides to share and sends to the speech center of the brain. Think of a "brain mass for augmented reality", she said.
Dugan adds that it's also possible to "listen" to human speech by using your skin.
Facebook's approach will be focused on developing a non-invasive system that could one day become a speech prosthetic for people with communication disorders or a new means for input to augmented reality, Dugan wrote. Its goal is to get good enough at interpreting information from the brain to be able to pull 100 words per minute - or about four times faster than the average person types on a smartphone with their thumbs.
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Our brains, along with the cochleas in our ears, possess the power to reconstruct language from components - and Facebook is looking at hardware and software to transmit those components to the body via pressure changes and vibrations.
"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", Dugan said.
But Dugan did stress that Facebook isn't blindly pursuing technological advancement without considering the implications. But what Facebook is proposing is perhaps more radical-a world in which social media doesn't require picking up a phone or tapping a wrist watch in order to communicate with your friends; a world where we're connected all the time by thought alone. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale.
Facebook's far-out projects are the latest efforts by a major Silicon Valley company to push the boundaries of human capabilities through technology.
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