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The dual challenge ahead of Facebook’s Typing-by-Brain project: 1) develop the neurotechnology, 2) develop the science

Direc­tor of Typ­ing-by-Brain Project Dis­cuss­es How Face­book Will Get Inside Your Head (IEEE Spec­trum):

When Facebook’s Mark Chevil­let describes the company’s new “typ­ing by brain” ini­tia­tive, he has a way of keep­ing it from sound­ing total­ly crazy…In the six weeks since Face­book exec­u­tive Regi­na Dugan announced the project at the company’s annu­al developer’s con­fer­ence, many neu­ro­sci­en­tists have expressed skep­ti­cism about the project’s time­line: Dugan said the team will be work­ing on this tech­nol­o­gy over the next two years.

Chevil­let clar­i­fied that Face­book doesn’t expect to have a com­mer­cial prod­uct in two years’ time—instead the execs hope the research done in that time will prove the fea­si­bil­i­ty of a prod­uct.

To meet that goal, Chevil­let said, his team is pur­su­ing two par­al­lel tracks of research. One focus­es on devel­op­ing a non-inva­sive tech­nol­o­gy that can read out high-qual­i­ty neur­al data. The sec­ond focus­es on brain sci­ence, and specif­i­cal­ly on bet­ter under­stand­ing the mech­a­nisms of lan­guage and speech. Here Chevil­let said they’re ask­ing the ques­tion: “Assum­ing you have the tech­nol­o­gy to get high-qual­i­ty neur­al data, how would you decode 100 words per minute?”…the big prob­lem there, says the Wyss Center’s Donoghue, is that neu­ro­sci­en­tists don’t yet know which data is impor­tant for func­tions like speech. “You’ve got all these sig­nals com­ing out of the brain, and the engi­neer comes along and says, ‘Oh, this is a sig­nal pro­cess­ing prob­lem. I’ll fig­ure this out.’ But we don’t have an under­ly­ing the­o­ry of brain that explains what all these sig­nals are,” Donoghue says. “You can’t cre­ate a good mod­el when there’s so much you don’t under­stand.”

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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