Facebook’s annual developers’ conference is in full swing this week. Ultimately, the event serves as an opportunity for the company to unveil their most innovative products and reveal key details about upcoming projects. And nothing is more promising or intriguing than what’s coming out of Facebook’s mysterious Building 8 (B8).
Currently, we know very little about B8, as none of their projects have been officially detailed, but rumors are swirling, and it’s not like we don’t know anything. We have some big, overarching information about the general work being done. It seems that B8 is working on four primary projects. These are said to include augmented reality, drones, cameras, and direct brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).
Yes, Facebook is working on computers that are meant to interface with our brains.
During the opening event yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that, today, speakers at the conference would discuss where they are in relation to their work on the BCI technology.
At the event, he stated that we would “hear from Regina Dugan about some of the work that [they are] doing to build even further out beyond augmented reality, and that includes work around direct brain interfaces that are going to, eventually, one day, let you communicate using only your mind.”
Dugan is a former DARPA executive. She also worked for Google’s advanced projects division. Now, Dugan has finally released information about the work B8 has been doing. The highlights and video of the event are below (this story is developing):
Facebook is working to develop a brain-computer interface that will, in the future, allow individuals to communicate with other people without speaking. Ultimately, they hope to develop a technology that allows individuals to “speak” using nothing but their thoughts—unconstrained by time or distance.
They want to create “category defining products” that are “social” first, products that allow us to form more human connections and, in the end, unite the digital world of the internet with the physical world and the human mind.
Dugan notes that the brain produces about 1 terabyte per a second. However, through speech, we can only transmit information to others at about 100 bytes per a second. Facebook wants to get all of the information that is transmitted to our speech center out of the “brain” and into the world (to allow us to get it to others at will).
For their beginning work, they hope to allow all humans to “type” and “click” through our brains in order to interact with our technology. For example, people with ALS could type—not with eye blinks—but with their thoughts. Thus, they wish to “decode speech” and allow all individuals to communicate using our brain waves.
Initially, their goal is to allow people to type 5 times faster than people can type on a smartphone straight from their brain. This means that they are developing technologies that can “read” the human brain in order to transmit this information.
Next, they will work to allow people to “type” a staggering 100 words a minute using their thoughts. That’s far, far faster than most humans can type on a computer. The average person types between 38 and 40 words per minute.
They have developed actuators that allow people to “hear” through their skin.Ultimately, with Facebook’s technology, humans can “feel” words.
Eventually, they want to allow people to think something and send the thought to someone’s skin. Additionally, they will allow people to think something in one language and have a person receive the thought in an entirely different language.
This article has been updated to clarify the nature of the brain interface and what information Facebook is hoping to capture and transmit to the outside world.