If you thought the fast face in technology wasn’t fascinating and a little bit scary, then picture this – a device that can type the words you are thinking. Pretty scary, right? But it can happen, as Facebook have announced a major breakthrough in its plans for this new type of technology.
However, according to the social media giant, it still has a long way to go before being a finished product. Back in 2017, Regina Dugan, the head of the US Defence Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at the time, asked at the all-important question at Facebook’s developer conference:
“What if you could type directly from your brain?”
Two years on, a research paper published in the journal Nature Communications has announced Facebook is now able to use records of brain activity while people speak, to immediately interpret what they were saying into text.
The company, alongside scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) implanted electrodes to record patients’ brain activities.
However, right now brain-computer interface (BCI) research is limited. So, it can only access these records through implanting electrodes into the brain, but Facebook is currently working on a wearable BCI device to monitor these signals.
“We’re a long way away from being able to get the same results that we’ve seen at UCSF in a non-invasive way”, Facebook stated. They also added they had started work on it with a system using near-infrared red.
“The past decade has seen tremendous strides in neuroscience – we know a lot more about how the brain understands and produces speech,”
Facebook added that new research into AI has improved the capabilities of technology to translate speech to text, and that AI is an area of research the company has spent a lot of investment into over the years. They’ve even been able to get academics from some of the most reputable universities into its research team.
“Taken together, these technologies could one day help people communicate by imagining what they want to say – a possibility that could dramatically improve the lives of people living with paralysis.” Facebook continued.
“Like other cells in your body, neurons consume oxygen when they’re active. So if we can detect shifts in oxygen levels within the brain, we can indirectly measure brain activity,”
Facebook has created a prototype device, which is fitted with large sensors using near-infrared light to calculate oxygen levels in a non-invasive way in order to reveal brain activity.
However, the company say that the current prototype is “bulky, slow and unreliable.”
Developing new, non-invasive methods of measuring neural signals with the same accuracy as implanted electrodes may take years to accomplish, but Facebook seem confident they are on the right path.
So, does that sound like something you’d want to sign up for? Or does it make you want to run-away fast for the hills? Lastly, will Facebook even give its users a choice to opt in or out, once this technology is released? Nobody knows.
Story by Emily Clark
Featured Photo Credit: Fossbytes