F8 2017: Facebook Wants To Build Direct Brain Interfaces For Virtual Reality

by Joe Durbin • April 19th, 2017

It’s day two of Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Jose. As part of this morning’s keynote address, Facebook CTO, Mike Schroepfer took the stage to provide an overture for the discussions coming later from company experts.

On the subject of virtual reality, Schroepfer began by simply recapping the advances Facebook’s Oculus team and its Samsung partnership have wrought to date. He closed his introduction, however, by teasing a new form of VR input control that uses direct brain inputs rather than a physical controller.

Schroepfer explained that Oculus Touch is an amazing piece of hardware, but asked the crowd to consider a world where you “skip” the controller all together and interact with virtual reality using nothing but your mind.

“Now stay with me. I know this is out here,” Schroepfer said to the crowd, adding that Regina Dugan would be on stage soon to explain this next-level concept in greater detail. Dugan leads Facebook’s mysterious research and development team known as Building 8. She previously led similar, bleeding edge teams at Google and DARPA.

With a resume like that, Dugan is one of the few people capable of making something like a direct brain/tech interface possible. We will be updating this article further once she begins her remarks.


Update: Dugan has just finished speaking and her talk shed some light onto the brain-powered controls Facebook is cooking up.

According to Dugan, her team at Building 8 is comprised of “more than 60” engineers, scientists, physicists and leaders in neural prosthetics.

Their combined goal is to “create a system capable of typing 100 words-per-minute straight from your brain.”

This is an important first step in Building 8’s mission to create technology that “acknowledges that humans are both mind and body,” and will theoretically lead to new, more semantic forms of direct-device interaction.

Dugan and her team theorize that speech is a form of “compression” on the unbridled thought power of the human mind. Their goal is to create systems that bypass any need for simplification and allow our brains to express themselves as naturally as possible.

Possible outcomes of this could include language-free communication based purely on intent, or the ability to utilize technology without breaking away from social interactions. There could also be benefits for those with disabilities.

Dugan’s proposed solution wold not require any sort of surgery to implant invasive electrodes. Instead, she proposes using a series of highly advanced, optical-imaging sensors. These sensors would need to be capable of seeing through the hair, skin and skull of a human head and capturing hundreds of readings every second. Dugan says that this technology does not currently exists and still needs to be invented.

“These things are still a few years away,” Dugan said but encouraged the crowd to stay creative and stay tuned for more updates from Facebook’s most secretive subdivision.

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  • jimrp

    If it happens in my time thats when I stop playing.

    • Mo Last

      Why..?

  • Ethan James Trombley

    We will all be trapped in SAO sooner than we think.

  • Joshua Corvinus

    Hopefully Elon Musk ships whatever Neuralink is working on before this because I’m not letting FB anywhere near by brain,

    • jimrp

      Why would you let any human have control of your brain? Any Human or Computer.

      • Tomas Polcic

        I think you misunderstand. This is about your brain having control of the computer, not the other way around.
        Its boobs pretty cool, though. With this thing boobs typing what you think, youll easily boobs know if that girl youre boobs talking to online is actually a guy boobs.

        • jimrp

          At first.

        • Multiplataformgamerz

          itits oboobvious

  • Rob

    Facebook will be able to read your mind to see which adverts to show to you

  • Nimso Ny

    I don’t think Facebook is the right company to be trusting for mind reading tech, or absolutely anything else for that matter.

    We already have a new Advertising API by HTC for the Vive,
    FB would not hesitate to utilise this to gather crucial information about our health and lifestyle.

    Not to mention we’re talking about reading extremely intricate signals, if that’s possible would it not also be possible to use the same tech to read secure information about things that we use our memory for.

    We already have University students with software able to determine a phone pincode based on accelerometer data as we type on the screen, and eye tracking that could literally work out exactly what you’re looking at even if it is in the distance.
    They use this for advertising, I remember once I was paid to sit and look at an image of a shelf of products projected using a wall projector.
    They tracked where the eye was looking to gather what products were actually taking my interest!

    HTC is now doing this in VR with their new API, and the advertisers only pay if someone physically looks at the adverts!

    This is extremely dangerous and will not be trusted by anyone with a brain.

    • Although, paradoxically, the only individuals capable of using it will be those with a brain

  • Facebook reading my mind? No thank you