Facebook Wants To Get Inside Your Brain After Acquiring The Technology To Produce Mind-Reading Wristbands
Over the last few years, Facebook has provided the blueprint for those wanting a case study that details a spectacular fall from grace. Currently, the social media network is under two separate US antitrust investigations as growing concern mounts that the company is too big and too powerful.
It’s warranted concern. But there’s no denying that Facebook’s reputation has become increasingly tarnished in recent years following a string of notable mistakes. There was the major privacy blunder that saw tens of millions of users’ data (and phone numbers) land in the laps of a political consulting firm, the abundant circulation of fake news on the platform, and of course, its interference in the US Presidential election that resulted in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
In a change of tune, the tech giant has now announced that it will take a number of steps to secure the 2020 elections, hoping to stop the spread of online trolls and misinformation. It’s an effort to appease those of us stressing about the company’s use of our data, but given that new reports indicate the company has agreed to buy tech startup CTRL-Labs in a deal expected to be worth between $US500 million and $1 billion, it seems Facebook’s quest for complete world domination isn’t being shelved anytime soon.
Today we’re thrilled to share that Facebook has agreed to acquire CTRL-labs. Our team is excited to join @boztank and his group Facebook Reality Labs to empower people with non-invasive neural interfaces at scale. https://t.co/b5w8ks62Sj— CTRL-labs (@CTRLlabsCo) 23 September 2019
For those unfamiliar with CTRL-Labs, the four-year-old startup has raised tens of millions in venture capital thanks to its bracelets that measure neuron activity in a subject’s arm to determine movement that person is thinking about, even if they aren’t actually moving. That neuron activity is then translated into movement on a digital screen.
All of this is to say that basically, CTRL-Labs has worked out a technology that has the ability to read neural activity. Sure, it’s currently limited to thoughts on movement, but in time it’s expected that the technology can expand to be all encompassing when it comes to reading the mind. It sounds positively creepy, but as we all know, if ever there was a company that dealt exclusively in the creepy field it’s Facebook.
The company has been diving deeper into AR technology, including the development of a hands-free pair of AR glasses, even announcing in 2017 plans for a “brain-computer interface” that could turn people’s thoughts into actual text on screen by monitoring signals in the brain.
According to Bloomberg, by acquiring CTRL-Labs and their technology, Facebook’s hope is that it can be used in products like augmented reality glasses, “where a user might want to control a computer without the need for buttons or a keyboard,” and enhance the experience.
At an industry conference last December, Thomas Reardon, chief executive officer of CTRL-Labs, explained the technology with the following example: “Your hands could be in your pocket, behind you. It’s the intention [to move], not the movement” itself that controls the avatar.
Speaking about the wristbands, Facebook’s head of AR and virtual reality Andrew Bosworth, said in a post announcing the deal: “The wristband will decode those [neural] signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand.”
Bosworth added, “It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to.”