Mark Zuckerberg is serious about brain-reading tech, plans to use it for AR, VR

Facebook is quite serious about developing brain-reading hardware and software. CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday elaborated what he thinks about the new technology and its possible implementations. Zuckerberg said that he would like to develop brain-controlled wearable and implantable devices. These devices would allow users to control things in virtual or augmented reality.

In a conversation with Dr. Joe DeRisi and Dr. Steve Quake of the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub, Mark Zuckerberg said, “The goal is to eventually make it so that you can think something and control something in virtual or augmented reality.”

Facebook recently acquired CTRL-Labs, a startup that was extensively working on neural interface platform. The startup was also exploring ways for humans to communicate with machines using brain signal. Facebook had said that it had intended to use CTRL Lab’s neural interface technology.

Zuckerberg, however, did not appear in favour of surgically planting a mind-controlling device in the brain but suggested that some applications may need to have one.

“I have enough neural capacity in my motor neurons to probably control another extra hand, it’s just a matter of training that and then they can pick up those signals off of the wrist. But if your ability to translate things that are going on in your brain into motor activity is limited then you need something implanted,” he said during the discussion.  

Facebook has been working on brain-reading technology for quite some time. Earlier this year, Facebook Reality Labs-backed University of California, San Francisco (UCSFC) researchers claimed they had succeeded in decoding a small set of full, spoken words and phrases from brain activity.

“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,” researchers explained in a blog post.

Facebook, however, isn’t alone in its efforts to develop brain-reading technology. Elon Musk’s Neuralink has developed a “brain-on-chip” that is capable of reading and even amplify signals from brain. Neuralink claims the technology can help treat a lot of brain-related disorders. The firm wants to begin human trials of the technology in 2020.

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