Will Facebook ever succeed in Reading Human Brains

The American giant is working on a brain-computer interface allowing communication without moving or saying a word. It would be enough for the user to imagine that he is speaking for his intentions to be transcribed.

Will Facebook ever succeed in Reading Human Brains

Facebook has just reached a milestone in the design of brain-computer interfaces. His goal is to Communicate without the need to speak or write. 

If you immediately think of the help it could bring to people with neurological damage, the American group is targeting a much wider audience. 

He is clearly considering a non-invasive device for everyone in the long term, in order to interact in a new way with virtual reality headsets or augmented reality glasses.

Facebook has just posted an inventory of his research and published a scientific article on this subject in the journal Nature. 

Launched in 2017, its brain-computer interface program has advanced. well, thanks to its collaboration with a team of researchers from the University of San Francisco and the work of its Facebook laboratory Reality Labs (FRL).

Do without Need of electrode helmets

Today, there are many functional brain-computer interfaces but they rely on the use of a helmet with electrodes which uses brain activity to send simple commands to a computer or activate a robotic prosthesis. 

The idea of ​​Facebook would be to do without such a restrictive device. But how do we then detect and interpret varied and subtle words that are only formulated in our brain?

The team from the University of California announces that they have been able to decode a small set of words and sentences from brain activity in real-time using an algorithm. 

It's a first. There are still error rates and the volume of recognizable words is low. Scientists, however, hope to achieve a real-time decoding speed of 100 words per minute with a vocabulary of 1,000 words and a word error rate of less than 17%. 

For the moment, they are still forced to use electrodes. Facebook is digging other tracks in parallel.

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Oxygen level or neuron movement is used as indicators

Like other cells in our body, neurons consume oxygen when they are active. One solution would be to record changes in the brain's oxygen levels, to indirectly measure brain activity. 

With the pulse oximeters which already measure the level of oxygen saturation of the blood through the finger. It would then be enough to use infrared light to know the degree of oxygenation of the blood in the brain.

Facebook is also exploring other ways to assess the movement of blood vessels and even neurons. 

Thanks to advances in optical technologies for smartphones and LiDAR, his laboratory believes he can create small devices more practical than current electrode helmets. 

Facebook firmly believes in it, one day it will succeed in decoding silent speech. "It could take more than a decade, but we think we can close that gap," said Facebook.

This is not without asking serious ethical questions. If one day Facebook succeeds in deciphering our internally formulated thoughts, who tells us that such a device could not be exploited by malicious people? 

We imagine all the potential that brands could draw from it to sell more products but also the ravages that it could cause if authoritarian regimes were able to guess the most secret thoughts. 
Madhuranjan Kumar

Blogger | Writes blog on Technology, sports, diseases, games, mobile reviews

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