Facebook wants to let you type with your thoughts and “hear with your skin.”
The social network is working on brain-computer-interface technology that “one day will let you communicate using only your mind,” according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The project is part of Facebook’s consumer hardware lab known as Building 8, as Business Insider first reported in January. Little had been publicly revealed about Building 8 until Wednesday, when Facebook took the wraps off the division’s first two projects at its annual developers conference in San Jose, California.
Building 8 chief Regina Dugan said her team of 60 scientists was working on a noninvasive system capable of typing 100 words per minute using only brain waves. An even more futuristic project intends to deliver spoken language through human skin.
The goal is to be able to think in Mandarin and feel in Spanish, according to Dugan, who joined Facebook last year from Google’s advanced projects division.
Silent speech interfaces
- Facebook / Regina Dugan
The projects are still a ways off from becoming actual products, but Facebook believes they eventually will be.
“Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale,” Zuckerberg said in a blog post on Wednesday.
Dugan, in her own Facebook post, described both of the projects as “silent speech interfaces,” which she said would offer the convenience of speaking with your voice but the privacy of sending a text message.
The skin project is aiming to replace the cochlea in the human ear by turning haptic touch into discernible thoughts and is being led by a former cardiologist from Stanford. The brain-to-text project is being led by a former John Hopkins neuroscientist who helped develop a mind-controlled prosthetic arm.
Both projects could have massive implications for Facebook, which makes its money off advertising. During her presentation on Wednesday, Dugan said the company intended to let people choose to selectively turn their thoughts into text.
“You take many photos, you choose to share some of them,” she said. “Similarly, you have many thoughts and you choose to share some of them.”