Facebook has revealed that they are working on technology to let people type straight from their brains at 100 words per minute. A team of 60 is working at a research lab in the area Facebook describes as silent speech communications. Another project is directed at allowing people to hear through their skin, for which the company is building the necessary hardware and software.
For Facebook, the question seems to be far from speculative. Regina Dugan, vice president of engineering and Building 8 wrote in a Facebook post, “Over the next 2 years, we will be building systems that demonstrate the capability to type at 100 wpm by decoding neural activity devoted to speech. It sounds impossible but it is closer than you may realize.”
As for hearing through the skin, Dugan said that we have two square meters of skin on our body that are filled with sensors and wired to our brain. Braille took advantage of that by helping people interpret small bumps on a surface as language in the 19th century. But since then techniques have emerged that show that the brain’s ability to reconstruct language from components. On Wednesday, they demonstrated an artificial cochlea of sorts and the beginnings of a new a ‘haptic’ vocabulary.
Facebook’s approach will be focused on developing a non-invasive system that could one day become a speech prosthetic for people with communication disorders or a new means for input to augmented reality. Dugan wrote that optical imaging techniques hold the most potential for providing the spatial and temporal resolution required for mapping brain signals. In order to consider and work on privacy concerns, Dugan said that the technology was not interested in decoding a person’s random thoughts. The aim is to decode those words that the person decides to share and sends to the speech center of the brain.
The research carried out by Facebook at the silent speech communications could help people overcome disability.