Facebook advances in its goal of controlling computers with the mind

by Kelvin

It is not the first time that Facebook Take a step in this direction, his interest in the control of devices using thinking has been demonstrated for years with the different movements of the company, and now they show it again with the announcement of the purchase of Ctrl-labs, a company known for creating a bracelet that translates musculoneural signals into commands interpretable by a machine and raised $ 67 million from investors before this purchase.

The acquisition has not yet been closed, and the numbers have not been made public, but it is believed to be around $ 1 billion.


At the beginning of this year, Facebook He provided an update on his brain-computer interface project he presented in 2017. In an article published in the journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, backed by Facebook Reality Labs, described a system capable of reading and decoding the brain activity of study subjects while they speak. Now he plans to incorporate Ctrl-labs into his Reality Labs division, whose main work refers to virtual and augmented reality technology, the same division where Oculus works, the Virtual Reality project that Facebook bought for 2,000 million in 2014.

Why buy Ctrl-labs

Facebook He wants to find more natural and intuitive ways to interact with devices and technology, and they want to build products for the consumer market as quickly as possible. Ctrl-labs already owns patents for devices that allow the control of robotics and computers through gestures and movements, so that products that reach the market could use both gestures and thoughts, all with the aim of interacting better With the gadgets around us.

The company's prototype, Ctrl-kit, consists of two parts: a cabinet about the size of a large clock full of wireless radios and a component attached with electrodes that sit above the arm. Now they are working on a final version of a single piece, with a developer kit connected to a PC wirelessly for processing (in the future such processing could be performed on a chip of the device itself, without depending on PC).

How this technology works

The science behind is not simple: it translates mental intention into action. Sixteen electrodes control the signals of motor neurons amplified by muscle fibers, the sensors measure the signals and, with the help of AI algorithms (trained with Google TensorFlow) distinguish between the individual pulses of each nerve. In this way we can know "what the neuron wanted to do" and perform the action without moving.

What can we do with these devices

Initially it was thought that this technology would help Virtual Reality gamers first, but shortly thereafter applications were seen that showed a virtual keyboard that assigns finger movements to computer inputs, allowing a user to type messages by touching the table with the fingertips. The applications are huge, and now it's the turn of the developers to open the door to an impressive new sector.

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