Facebook is working on technology that could let users type text with their minds

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  • On the final day of its F8 developer conference, Facebook revealed that one if its newest research groups is working to develop an innovative brain-to-text technology, which would allow users to type text with their minds.

    The secretive research group, codenamed Building 8, was created by Facebook a few years ago to help diversify the social network’s revenue model by focusing on the development of future hardware products.

    Building 8 is led by Regina Dugan, a former director of the US Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). At the F8 conference Dugan revealed that Building 8 is in fact modelled on DARPA, the advanced research group that developed the original Internet in the 1960s, decades before Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web at CERN.

    The various hardware prototypes currently being developed by Building 8 are all still in the very early stages, and its likely to be years before anything is released publicly. But one fascinating technology the research group is working to develop is hardware that allows people to type words using their minds.

    "It sounds impossible, but it's closer than you may realize," Dugan told the conference goers.

    The technology already exists in a very raw (and physically invasive) form: by having electrodes inserted into their brains test subjects have so far been able to type eight words a minute using just their thoughts. Building 8’s development work is geared towards removing the need for invasive brain implants, while also increasing the brain-to-text typing speed to an impressive 100 words a minute.

    There are a number of obvious use cases for this new brain-to-text technology, including enabling disabled people to type text more easily, but it is also highly likely the brain-to-text functionality would be just the beginning of Building 8’s direct brain-to-computer interaction.

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