Facebook is building brain-computer interfaces for typing and skin-hearing

Today during F8, Facebook suggested it has a group of 60 engineers operative on building a brain-computer interface that will let we form with usually your mind yet invasive implants. The group skeleton to use visual imaging to indicate your mind a hundred times per second to detect we vocalization silently in your head, and interpret it into text.

Regina Dugan, a conduct of Facebook’s RD multiplication Building 8, explained to discussion attendees that a idea is to eventually concede people to form during 100 difference per minute, 5X faster than typing on a phone, with usually your mind.

Eventually, brain-computer interfaces could let people control protracted existence and practical existence practice with their mind instead of a shade or controller. Facebook’s CEO and CTO teased these sum of this “direct mind interface” record over a final dual days during F8.


“What if we could form directly from your brain?” Dugan asked. She showed a video of a inept medical studious during Stanford who can form regulating their mind interjection to an ingrained sensor. She went on to explain how Facebook wants to do this yet surgical implants.

Building 8 usually began operative on a mind typing devise 6 months ago, yet it now is collaborating with UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers who specialize in appurtenance training for decoding debate and language, building visual neuroimaging systems with modernized spatial fortitude and next-generation neural prosthetics are involved.

A Stanford studious can form with their mind around a surgical implant. Facebook wants to build a faster, non-invasive version

The devise is to eventually build non-implanted inclination that can boat during scale. And to tamp down on a unavoidable fear this investigate will inspire, Facebook tells me “This isn’t about decoding pointless thoughts. This is about decoding a difference you’ve already motionless to share by promulgation them to a debate core of your brain.” Facebook likened it to how we take lots of photos yet usually share some of them. Even with a device, Facebook says you’ll be means to consider openly yet usually spin some thoughts into text.


Meanwhile, Building 8 is operative on a approach for humans to hear by their skin. It’s been building prototypes of hardware and program that let your skin impersonate a cochlea in your ear that translates sound into specific frequencies for your brain. This record could let deaf people radically “hear” by bypassing their ears.

A group of Facebook engineers was shown experimenting with conference by skin regulating a complement of actuators tuned to 16 magnitude bands. A exam theme was means to rise a wording of 9 difference they could hear by their skin.

To underscore a sobriety of Building 8s mind-reading technology, Dugan started her speak by observant she’s never seen something as absolute as a smartphone “that didn’t have unintended consequences.” She mentioned that we’d all be improved off if we looked adult from a phones each so often. But during a same time, she believes record can encourage empathy, preparation and tellurian community.

Building 8’s Big Reveal

Facebook hired Dugan final year to lead a sly new Building 8 investigate lab. She had before run Google’s Advanced Technology And Products division, and was before a conduct of DARPA.

Facebook built a special Area 404 wing of a Menlo Park domicile with tons of automatic engineering apparatus to assistance Dugan’s group fast antecedent new hardware. In December, it signed fast partnership deals with Stanford, Harvard, MIT and some-more to get academia’s assistance.

Yet until now, nobody unequivocally knew what Building 8 was…building. Business Insider had reported on Building 8’s job listings and that it competence uncover off news during F8.

According to these pursuit listings, Facebook is looking for a Brain-Computer Interface Engineer “who will be obliged for operative on a 2-year B8 devise focused on building modernized BCI technologies.” Responsibilities embody “Application of appurtenance training methods, including encoding and decoding models, to neuroimaging and electrophysiological data.” It’s also looking for a Neural Imaging Engineer who will be “focused on building novel non-invasive neuroimaging technologies” who will “Design and weigh novel neural imaging methods formed on optical, RF, ultrasound, or other wholly non-invasive approaches.”

Elon Musk has been building his possess startup called Neuralink for formulating mind interfaces.

Facebook Building 8 RD multiplication conduct Regina Dugan


Facebook has built hardware before to churned success. It done an Android phone with HTC called a First to horde a Facebook Home handling system. That flopped. Since then, Facebook correct has incited a courtesy divided from consumer gadgetry and toward connectivity. It’s built the Terragraph Wi-Fi nodesProject ARIES antennaAquila solar-powered drone and a possess connectivity-beaming satellite from a internet entrance beginning — yet that blew adult on a launch pad when a SpaceX car carrying it exploded.

Facebook has built and open sourced its Surround 360 camera. As for back-end infrastructure, it’s grown an open-rack network switch called Wedge, the Open Vault for storage, and sensors for a Telecom Infra Project’s OpenCellular platform. And finally, by a merger of Oculus, Facebook has built wired and mobile practical existence headsets.

Facebook’s Area 404 hardware lab contains tons of automatic engineering and prototyping equipment

But as Facebook grows, it has a resources and talent to try new approaches in hardware. With over 1.8 billion users connected to usually a categorical Facebook app, a association has a large flue of intensity guinea pigs for a experiments.

Today’s announcements are naturally unsettling. Hearing about a little startup building these modernized technologies competence have conjured images of governments or coporate conglomerates one day reading a mind to detect suspicion crime, like in 1984. Facebook’s scale creates that destiny feel some-more plausible, no matter how most Zuckerberg and Dugan try to position a association as good and compassionate. The some-more Facebook can do to hospital safe-guards, eccentric monitoring, and clarity around how brain-interface record is built and tested, a some-more receptive it competence find a public.

A week ago Facebook was being criticized as zero yet a Snapchat copycat that had stopped innovating. Today’s demos seemed pattern to idle that evidence and keep tip engineering talent knocking on a door.

“Do we wish to work for a association who pioneered putting protracted existence dog ears on teens, or a one that pioneered typing with telepathy?” You don’t have to contend anything. For Facebook, meditative competence be enough.

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