Thanks, Facebook, I Didn’t Want Your Brain Interface, Anyway
Facebook’s brain gear is dead, but the research and possibilities continue
I do not need to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or, really, any platform any more quickly than I already do. I don’t want or need a device that can read my thoughts because I’m not frustrated that sometimes I can think faster than I type or speak. Maybe I should just slow down.
So, no, I’m not sad that Facebook, more specifically its research-based Reality Labs, has decided to shift its focus from an optical-based, head-mounted thought-reading system to wrist-based neural interface devices and more intuitive AR/VR input.
When Facebook announced four years ago that it was working on a non-invasive brain-interface system, I was a little alarmed. After Facebook’s former VP of Engineering Regina Dugan, asked rhetorically, “What if you could type directly from your brain?” I likened her to Doctor Frankenstein.
To be fair to Dugan and the team of researchers at UC San Francisco, there was never a plan to dismember and rebuild psychically connected social media influencers from sundry body parts. The focus wasn’t even on reading thoughts, just impulses that could be, ultimately interpreted as words and sentences you were planning to type in a Facebook Post or really anyplace that accepts textual input.
What’s been lost in the news that Facebook is stepping back from directly funding research into optically-brain-connected social media input tools is that the researchers have, according to a new blog post, “restored a person’s ability to communicate by decoding brain signals sent from the motor cortex to the vocal tract.”
It’s worth noting that while the researchers’ long-term plan is to use a non-invasive approach, the breakthrough still required, in this instance, a brain implant to pick up brain signals that could then be sent to a computer, which, using, in part, Facebook’s machine learning technology, interpreted them as words and sentences.