Facebook work to create brain-controlled computers

Send a message without touching your phone

Facebook work to create brain-controlled computers

Picture by Eric Risberg AP/Press Association Images

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Facebook's F8 conference. This event is targeted at developers but is watched by tech fans around the world. Every year, Mark Zuckerberg gives some insight into what he and his team are working on. 

Day one saw Zuckerberg discuss their ambitious plans for augmented reality. On day two we heard how the firm is studying ways for users to control computers directly by thought. 

The project is in the early stages of development, but some details have been revealed. Facebook says it is developing "silent software" that will allow people to type at a rate of 100 words per minute using brainpower alone. The software will be able to detect brainwaves, without needing invasive surgery. 

"We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts,” stated Facebook's Regina Dugan. "You have many thoughts, you choose to share some of them. We’re talking about decoding those words. A silent speech interface - one with all the speed and flexibility of voice."

There is a team of 60 working on the project, which has been ongoing for six months. If this project is successful, users will be able to send messages and create posts by thinking, rather than interacting with a device. 

Posting on his Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg added: "Our brains produce enough data to stream four HD movies every second. The problem is that the best way we have to get information out into the world - speech - can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem." 

"We're working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about five times faster than you can type on your phone today." 

"Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale. Even a simple yes/no 'brain click' would help make things like augmented reality feel much more natural.Technology is going to have to get a lot more advanced before we can share a pure thought or feeling, but this is a first step."

Building 8, Facebook's research unit, was launched last year. It conducts long-term work that may lead to hardware products in the future.