From Mary Poppins to Yoda, some of the greatest movie characters of all time have demonstrated an ability to do incredible things just with the power of their brains, but it could just be that Facebook users will also soon be able to get a taste for technological mind-reading after the company announced its latest bold vision for the future.
The plans were revealed at F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference. It is an event where the social network traditionally outlines its intentions for big new projects and speaks about the latest updates, and this year’s ideas are certainly not short of ambition. A team of more than 60 scientists and academics have been recruited to help make the dream of brain-powered computing a reality, and details of the first steps have now been shared with the world at F8.
Facebook’s ‘silent speech’ software will not decode random thoughts, but will detect brainwaves which users wish to share, and transfer them into typed words. According to Facebook’s Regina Dugan, It is hoped that the new interface will have ‘all the speed and flexibility of voice’, and will allow people to type at a rate of 100 words per minute.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder, says the planned system will ‘let you type straight from your brain about five times faster than you can type on your phone today’. Zuckerberg would like it to be developed into a wearable technology that can be widely manufactured, although he has admitted that there need to be considerable advancements before pure feelings can be expressed simply with the power of the mind.
The only way to achieve such a sophisticated level of brain control at present is to implant a computer chip, and other forms of external technology are very basic and only allow users to attempt simple tasks such as moving a dot up or down a screen. A related idea put forward by Facebook at F8 runs along similar lines to Braille, and would use pressure points on the skin to allow people to ‘hear’ just through their sense of touch.
As well as the mind-reading technology plans, a number of other announcements were made at F8, including the launch of Facebook Spaces. The company’s first virtual reality offering, Facebook Spaces lets users spend time with friends and family in VR chat rooms, which come in various forms such as outer space.
Facebook is also launching a number of tools to help ‘make the camera the first mainstream augmented reality platform’, according to Zuckerberg. These include Frames Studio, which will allow developers to make frames for pictures of any image taken with the Facebook camera. Facebook Messenger Platform 2.0 is also being rolled out with added artificial intelligence, while the M digital assistant is being improved to help make smarter recommendations.
The Messenger revamp, Facebook Spaces and AR camera tools will all be welcomed by users and are sure to have an immediate impact, but it is the idea of brain-powered technology that shows Facebook remains very much at the forefront of innovation and will keep people on tenterhooks for the months to come as they wait to hear any more exciting developments.