Facebook’s Reality Labs (FRL), a research lab within Facebook focused on augmented reality technologies, is working on wristbands that can intercept your brain’s signals and use them to control your computers.
The wristband is based on electromyography (EMG), which uses sensors to translate electrical motor nerve signals that travel from the wrist to the hand into digital commands. So, for example, when you think about moving your hand, typing something on a keyboard, or push a button, the wristband can know exactly what you want to do and then use that data to let you interact with a virtual keyboard or button.
According to Facebook, “This is not mind-reading; the machine doesn’t know what you’re thinking. Rather, when you decide to take any action, it can decode what it’s going to be.”
“What we’re trying to do with neural interfaces is to let you control the machine directly, using the output of the peripheral nervous system — specifically the nerves outside the brain that animate your hand and finger muscles,” FRL director of neuromotor interfaces Thomas Reardon said in a statement.
“I’ve tried something similar back in 2017 when the Italian Institute of Technology showed me a prototype of a system that let me control a robotic arm by contracting and relaxing the muscles of my hand.”
While impressive at the time, the technology now seems pretty crude compared to what Facebook is cooking with its neural wristbands. Facebook further insists that although the band reads neural signals, “this is not akin to mind reading.” Here’s how it explains the concept:
You have many thoughts and you choose to act on only some of them. When that happens, your brain sends signals to your hands and fingers telling them to move in specific ways in order to perform actions like typing and swiping. This is about decoding those signals at the wrist — the actions you’ve already decided to perform — and translating them into digital commands for your device.Source: www.TheVerge.com
FRL’s blog post is accompanied with a video that shows how this technology might look in real life. Some of it looks like it comes straight from a science-fiction movie; for example, the bit where a woman uses the wristbands to fire a virtual arrow from a virtual bow into a virtual target.
FRL says that these wristbands will initially only offer simple controls, though, as a virtual click on a button. And the company hasn’t even launched its AR glasses, though we do know they’re in the works.
Eventually, you’ll be able to control virtual objects and interact with virtual user interfaces. And with additional technology such as contextually-aware AI and haptic feedback, the stuff we’ve seen in basically every sci-fi movie in the past ten years — you know, the bit where the protagonist easily shuffles some virtual objects around with her hands — might become reality.
Like most wearable technology, EMG bands offer an intimate look at how our bodies are moving — and while it’s not quite as creepy-sounding as a band that reads your thoughts, it still requires a lot of trust.
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