Facebook's biotech plans: Type with your brain and hear with your skin

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 20 April 2017
Facebook F8

At its annual F8 conference, Facebook has mapped out its plans to invest significantly in artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality over the next decade, as well as a number of technologies that move it into the bio-tech space.

The social network, which is fast becoming much more than a mobile and web platform, also outlined some more sci-fi technologies it plans to invest.

Facebook is also working on a “silent speech” technology that would allow people to type directly from their thoughts, without having to text on a phone or device, and something that would allow people to “hear with their skin”.

“This isn’t about decoding your random thoughts. Think of it like this: you take many photos and choose to share only some of them. Similarly, you have many thoughts and choose to share only some of them. This is about decoding those words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain,” it said in a statement.

In the AI, AR and VR space, developments include an AI camera that will be able to understand users' surroundings and recognise people, places and things. It will eventually roll out across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. 

It also unveiled a new VR camera that takes VR footage and allows what it is calling “six degrees of freedom (6DoF)” -  which means “you can move your head around in the world and see it from different angles”.

In terms of AR, Facebook talked about the next dimension of augmented reality and virtual computing that goes beyond the camera, and “enhances your vision and hearing seamlessly” at the same time as being “socially acceptable” enough to use anywhere. 

“Virtual computing is just starting to form, but it will give us the ability to transcend time and space to connect with one another in new ways,” says Michael Abrash, chief scientist of Oculus Research.

He hinted towards a pair of see-through glasses that would eventually overlay virtual images on the real world - it will be wanting to succeed where Google Glass failed.

Chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer talked about connectivity as a way of investing in different technologies to create “building-blocks … which are then used together to create flexible and extensible networks”.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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