Facebook’s ambitious brain-reading technology gets closer to reality

Facebook is working on a device that lets you type by just thinking about it.

| Updated on: Jul 31 2019, 10:28 IST
A prototype of Facebook’s mind-reading wearable
A prototype of Facebook’s mind-reading wearable (Facebook)
A prototype of Facebook’s mind-reading wearable
A prototype of Facebook’s mind-reading wearable (Facebook)

Facebook is inching closer to make its ambitious brain-reading computer a reality. First introduced at its F8 2017 developer conference, Facebook says it has made great deal of progress with its brain-reading computer and even published the results of a successful experiment. Facebook Reality Labs-backed University of California, San Francisco (UCSFC) researchers said they were able to real-time decode a small set of full, spoken words and phrases from brain activity.

In a study titled 'Nature Communications Aside', USFC researchers said that their Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) can currently only decode small set of texts but they are aiming to achieve larger vocabularies with lower error rates in the near future. Researchers have set a target of reaching real-time decoding of 100 words per minute with word error rate of less than 17% and 1,000-word vocabulary.

Researchers believe the work could one day help patients with speech loss communicate with others using "fully non-invasive, wearable device." They also pointed out that the current generation of brain-reading device isn't ready for the commercial launch anytime soon.

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"We don't expect this system to solve the problem of input for AR anytime soon. It's currently bulky, slow, and unreliable. But the potential is significant, so we believe it's worthwhile to keep improving this state-of-the-art technology over time. And while measuring oxygenation may never allow us to decode imagined sentences, being able to recognize even a handful of imagined commands, like "home," "select," and "delete," would provide entirely new ways of interacting with today's VR systems — and tomorrow's AR glasses," said researchers in a blog post.

Facebook isn't alone in endevours to build a brain-computer interface. Just earlier this month, Elon Musk-backed Neuralink revealed a "brain-on-chip" that can read, transmit high-volume data and even amplify signals from the brain.

"This has the potential to solve several brain-related diseases. The idea is to understand and treat brain disorders, preserve and enhance your own brain and create a well-aligned future," Musk had said.

Neuralink is looking to begin human trials of its brain-machine chip in 2020.

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First Published Date: 31 Jul, 10:28 IST