At the Facebook F8 developer conference, it was revealed that 60 researchers, including those from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and Johns Hopkins Medicine has partnered with the Facebook R&D lab Building 8. The partnership remained a secret until this week at which time the details of the project, which entails the development of a device that will permit users to type with their mind instead of their hands was made public.The researchers will utilize optical imaging to create an apparatus that will not require a surgical implant, but will type much faster the hands – in the range of 100 words per minutes. Acting as a “speech prosthetic” the apparatus will prove to be beneficial for paraplegics and hemiplegics.
Building 8 head Regina Dugan posted on Facebook, “Just as you take many photos and decide to share some of them, so too, you have many thoughts and decide to share some of them in the form of the spoken work.
“It is these words, words that you have already decided to send to the speech center of the brain that we seek to turn into text,” she noted.
To make this possible, Facebook and the research team would need to construct sensors that are capable of measuring brain activity “hundreds of times per second” from different locations that are precise to millimeters and absence of signal distortions.
While the technology has a ways to go, Dugan has already begun tackling potential privacy issues. Dugan said “decoding random thoughts” isn’t what the project is intended to do.
APL and DARPA recently united to work on mind-controlled prosthetics and published the findings, which demonstrated the potential to utilize neural signals to decipher details regarding the meaning of words. This ongoing project will attempt to expand on that work.