Facebook plans to read your mind with an AR headset

Facebook app on iPhone

You might think it’s creepy for Facebook to collect your personal data for the optimization of their service. Now, the social media giant is skipping over cyberspace and reading your mind directly with a pair of AR glasses.

Facebook has been developing its brain-reading computers since 2017 and the company gave its first update on July 30th, detailing their vision in a system that can “decode silent speech” without the need to implant a chipset into the brain.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, who collaborated with Facebook, said they have taken an important step toward brain reading in an academic journal published on Nature. The researchers created an algorithm to “decode a small set of full, spoken words and phrases from brain activity in real-time.”

This algorithm was tried on some people who are having brain surgery for epilepsy. Facebook noted that working with brain surgery patients is definitely not the best approach for the research. Therefore, Facebook’s Reality Labs, which conducts research on AR and VR technologies, is trying out other methods including monitoring oxygen levels in the brain with a “portable, wearable device made from consumer-grade parts.”

Facebook said oxygen monitoring is “currently bulky, slow and unreliable,” but the company still hopes to integrate such technologies into its VR headsets and future AR glasses.

“While measuring oxygenation may never allow us to decode imagined sentences, being able to recognize even a handful of imagined commands, like ‘home,’ ‘select,’ and ‘delete,’ would provide entirely new ways of interacting with today’s VR systems — and tomorrow’s AR glasses,” said Facebook in a press statement.

“Thanks to the commercialization of optical technologies for smartphones and LiDAR, we think we can create small, convenient BCI devices that will let us measure neural signals closer to those we currently record with implanted electrodes.”

We currently know very little about Facebook’s planned AR glasses. Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash said back in 2017 that the glasses were at least five to ten years away. The only thing relatable right now are the patents filed by Facebook with regards to the AR glasses.

Facebook is facing intense pressure from the public after a record-breaking $5 billion fine for violating user privacy. It might be worth a second thought before putting on one of these headsets that grants the social media giant direct access to your brain.