Social networking giant Facebook is developing an interface between the human brain and a personal computing device that will enable users to operate devices with thoughts, The Information reports.
Imagine the rise in productivity if Facebook realises its dream.
“We spend a lot of time trying to get our technology to do what we want rather than enjoying the people around us,” said Facebook vice president of augmented and virtual reality Andrew Bosworth in a post last year.
“We know there are more natural, intuitive ways to interact with devices and technology. And we want to build them.”
Mind control of devices follows a long line of input methods that started with keyboards and mice and progressed to touch screens and voice controls.
Facebook has reportedly shrunk the mind control technology required from the size of a refrigerator to a handheld device, through its purchase of CTRL-Labs in September.
“[W]e hope to build this kind of technology, at scale, and get it into consumer products faster,” Bosworth said.
It could be another five to 10 years before Facebook can include such capability in consumer products. As well as the social networking platform, Facebook owns Oculus virtual reality headsets and the Portal range of video conferencing hardware.
In the shorter term Facebook may build a variant that translates body movements captured by a smart armband to send commands to devices.
“The vision for this work is a wristband that lets people control their devices as a natural extension of movement,” Bosworth said.
“Here’s how it’ll work: You have neurons in your spinal cord that send electrical signals to your hand muscles telling them to move in specific ways such as to click a mouse or press a button. The wristband will decode those signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand, empowering you with control over your digital life. It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to.
“Technology like this has the potential to open up new creative possibilities and reimagine 19th Century inventions in a 21st Century world. This is how our interactions in VR and AR can one day look. It can change the way we connect.”
Facebook is also freeing itself from other technology giants by building its own operating system from scratch in a project led by former Microsoft engineer Mark Lucovsky.
Facebook’s hardware products could run the new operating system, Facebook head of augmented reality Ficus Kirkpatrick said. The OS will be built from scratch. Facebook has not said when its operating system might arrive or what products would use it first.