Have you ever wished that you could just lay back, nice and comfortable in your bed or chair, and just think your way through your emails or research paper or that novel you’ve always wanted to write?
Voice-to-text used to be the hot thing for increasing productivity–something that would let you pace and talk your magnum opus while software like Dragon Naturally Speaking captured your brilliant ideas and typed them for you.
Now, though, Facebook has proposed a non-invasive brain-typing interface that suggests it could analyze and understand signals right from the speech center of the brain at a whopping 100 words per minute.
To put that in context, the average office worker has a typing speed of approximately 40 WPM, which puts Facebook’s brain typing interface at two-and-a-half times the textual productivity (and with no wrist strain!).
You can hear Regina Dugan’s full keynote and announcement from the recent F8 conference in this video:
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They announced this lofty idea at the most recent F8 conference, and suggested that the technology would only be able to understand that speech which users wanted and intended to type, i.e. not their own personal, private internal monologue.
This relieved many people’s paranoid fears of such a major company as this that already has intimate insight into the personal lives of many having free-roaming access to personal thoughts as well.
One aspect of this announcement that has a lot of people confused at the moment is that the technology they want to use to make this happen doesn’t actually exist yet. Of course, that may not stop such a massive and well-funded company from finding and creating the technology with enough heads and hands on the project.
In a report from Brian Resnick on Vox, he brings in an MIT neuroscientist, Rebecca Saxe, to weigh in on this idea that is dreamy to some and ludicrous to others.
Saxe explains that we don’t have technology that is advanced enough yet to decipher specific words using a brain interface. She does, however, propose a flashing light keyboard with auto-fill similar to mobile phones that we could use to type, but explains that it would be very tiresome and require great concentration.
As IEEE points out in an interview with Jamie Henderson, the best-performing noninvasive brain typing interfaces in recent years did not even meet 1WPM, much less 100. Using an invasive implant, Krishna Shenoy has helped patients achieve speeds of nearly 8WPM.
We may not be far off from Facebook’s big dream of brain typing after all. Only the future can tell.
If it does come to pass, we may face significant ethical concerns, and we can expect that a lot of the population will have a lot of questions before allowing access to their brainwaves.
If you had the chance, would you use a brain typing interface from Facebook? Let us know in the comments below!