Facebook held its annual F8 conference this week, and while augmented reality was the main takeaway most have focused on, there was much more that went on there. One of the more interesting topics that came up was mind reading as apparently, the company has a team of scientists working on a way to take speech-to-text technology a step further.
60 scientists working on reading your mind
Facebook wants people to be able to use its platform just by thinking about it, so it has a group of specialists from its Building 8 moonshot division looking into how this can be done. The head of Building 8 is Regina Dugan, a former Googler who has also served as director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA.
She revealed their mind reading project during a keynote speech at F8 this week, introducing it as a solution to the problem of how distracted people are by their smartphones. Instead of looking at your smartphone to use Facebook, the social network wants you to just think about what you’d like to post on there. The idea is that instead of typing an email, you could just think it.
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Yes, it’s the ultimate in laziness because not only do you not have to type that email, but you don’t even have to speak it and use speech-to-text software. But this should be a very chilling invention, if or when it becomes a reality.
Facebook wants to develop brain-to-text tech
According to The Guardian, Facebook has 60 scientists in various related fields such as machine learning and neural prosthetics working together to build a system that can type 100 words per minute, which is five times faster than people are able to type on a smartphone. The only input needed is brainwaves, and Dugan said the technology isn’t as far off as most people realize.
For example, she explained that one woman who suffers from ALS had a tiny implant that could read her brainwaves and then translate her thoughts into text at a speed of eight words per minute. However, she said Facebook wants to develop a technology that doesn’t require surgical implantation of electrodes. Rather, the company wants to build sensors that use optical imaging in the form of lasers to take words out of the user’s brain and then transmit them.
Are you scared yet?
She tried to emphasize that the technology wouldn’t just decode the user’s every thought, but rather, it would only decode words the user was going to share anyway because they were on the way to the brain’s speech center. While Dugan tried to claim that the technology removes a distraction by enabling people to type a text without taking out their smartphones, The Guardian notes that the distraction still exists. You still have to think what you’re going to type, so she hasn’t removed the distraction, only changed it to make it less obvious that you’re distracted.
And then there are the implications of what else can be done with such technology. Government agencies would love to get their hands on technology they could tweak to read anyone’s mind at any time. Instead of spying on our emails, eventually they could be spying on our very thoughts, and the same thing with hackers. Where there’s technology linked to the internet, the potential exists for exploitation. Such exploits are probably much further down the road than what Facebook is working on right now, but this sounds like the earliest groundwork for hacking people’s thoughts.
Dugan also explained that they want to develop what she called a “brain click,” which is basically just a way of saying that you can use your mind to do things within augmented reality, such as dismiss a notification that just showed up on your AR glasses, reports The Verge.