Mind-reading startup bought by Facebook

Written by:
Leah Johnston
Date Posted:
26 September 2019
Tech News

The $1 billion deal connecting brains to computers

Facebook & Friends
Neural interface company, CTRL-Labs, has been acquired by social media giants, Facebook. The US startup will be joining Facebook Reality Labs, the social network’s augmented and virtual reality division.

The company has designed a wristband capable of identifying and decoding signals from the brain that can tell the hand to move. The device can then transmit the command, such as pressing a button, to a computer.

Facebook VR president, Andrew Bosworth, wrote in a personal Facebook post that the wristband “lets people control their devices as a natural extension of movement”.

Electrical Explanation
Explaining the intricacies of the wristband, Bosworth stated, 

“You have neurons in your spinal cord that send electrical signals to your hand muscles telling them to move in specific ways such as to click a mouse or press a button. The wristband will decode those signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand”

Perhaps the most ground-breaking aspect of the device is that it understands your intention, meaning you could share a photo using a subtle movement, or just by “intending to”.

Mixed Signals
As the first potential market-ready product with the capability to measure and translate neural activity, the announcement has sparked mixed opinions. 

With Facebook’s various data misuse scandals dominating our news feed over the past few years, it is unsurprising to hear negative opinions surrounding the announcement. Acquiring CTRL-Labs gives Facebook another platform with access to incredibly sensitive personal data – and you can’t get much more personal than brain signals. 

CTRL-Labs announced news of the new partnership on Twitter, revealing they are “thrilled” to join Facebook Reality Labs – but not everyone is so pleased. Tech commentator Azeem Azhar replied, stating that it is “great for them, disappointing for the rest of us”. He went on to say that “Facebook needs to inveigle itself into our lives less, not more.”

On the contrary, founder of educational app LightUp, was excited by the news. “As an educator, I’m imagining how this could transform how we all learn,” he said.

It seems we are moving into a time of human-orientated computing, using our own neurology to manipulate devices. But what ethical questions will this new way of interacting, connecting and living raise?

Would you trust Facebook with your neurological data? Let us know your thoughts @hyve!

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