Facebook has released new information about its brain-computer interface. It is part of a device design capable of reading users’ minds or, more technically, recognizing commands from brain waves.
The company made progress from an experiment carried out in conjunction with researchers from the University of California at San Francisco. In it, volunteers about to undergo epilepsy surgery agreed to implant electrodes that responded to their statements.
The equipment was used to record activity in parts of the brain and to recognize patterns from words and phrases spoken by volunteers. Participants heard multiple-choice questions and gave their answers aloud.
From there, the brain-computer interface determined whether speech was a question or an answer and then tried to identify the content. The system also considered the context to limit the lines available.
The experiment, which involved only 9 questions and 24 possible answers, registered 61% to 76% accuracy.
Brain-computer interfaces are not new, but they are usually slow and require you to choose one letter at a time on virtual keyboards. Facebook intends to offer a system with quick commands like “select” and “delete”, in addition to recognizing more than 100 words per minute in a non-invasive way.
As the experiment demonstrates, an objective is still far from being achieved. Recognition is still not as efficient and the electrodes are quite invasive. However, the company believes that in the future, wearables will be able to use brain waves to recognize user commands.
“Being able to decode even a handful of imagined words – like ‘select’ or ‘delete’ – would provide totally new ways to interact with today’s virtual reality systems and tomorrow’s augmented reality glasses,” says Facebook.
The development of a brain-computer interface also leads to new discussions about information that Facebook can access. For Facebook Reality Labs director Mark Chevillet, it is necessary to wait for the development of the interface.
“We cannot anticipate or resolve all ethical problems associated with this technology on our own,” he says. “Neuroethic design is one of the main pillars of our program – we want to be transparent about what we are working on so that people can tell us their concerns about this technology”.