Facebook is fast developing technology to read minds

Facebook’s researchers working at the University of California as part of its reality lab have built a device that will be able to decode people’s thoughts by merely intercepting their brain waves. The Menlo Park Company published the progress of this research and development, in the magazine Nature Communications.

Should it go through and 100 per cent succeed, it seems like many of our sci-fi concepts could soon become reality. However, according to the company at least, the research is focused towards using the technology to help patients with neurological inabilities to speak. Right now, the team has tested this on patients without neural disabilities and heard patients while the machine tried to decode their brainwaves. In the article published on Nature Communications, the team said that using high-density electro-corticography (ECoG) recordings they managed to decode 76 per cent of perceived utterances in an isolated environment.
Initially met with scepticism, Facebook announced that it was investing in an initiative like this first at its annual developer’s conference in 2017. Working through its ‘Facebook Reality Lab’ (FRL) it had wanted to develop a device which could intercept people’s thoughts, however without being intrusive as if through mapping electrodes or putting in implants.

“During ECoG recording, participants first listened to a set of pre-recorded questions and then verbally produced a set of answer responses. These data served as input to train speech detection and decoding models,” read the Nature Communications article. “After training, participants performed a task in which, during each trial, they listened to a question and responded aloud with an answer of their choice. Using only neural signals, we detect when participants are listening or speaking and predict the identity of each detected utterance using phone-level Viterbi decoding.”

The team further used also probability to predict the answers as wellwhich it says greatly helped improve the performance of the technology.

Facebook’s research may also seem scary to you, given no actual lines and rules have been put in place as to the boundaries of the company’s this development. However rest assured that this still seems to be in its infancy stages of development, and the teams ability to actually be able to decode unspoken thoughts yet, without probability calculation.

There are a few things to worry about however. With FRL’s chief scientist’s quote also accompanying Facebook’s announcement on this it may mean FRL’s tech will be used for purposes other than aiding neutrally challenged individuals. Here’s what he had said, for your information – we’re standing on the edge of the next great wave in human-oriented computing, one in which the combined technologies of AR and VR converge and revolutionize how we interact with the world around us — as well as the ways in which we work, play, and connect.

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