An ethics board will be assembled by Facebook in order to monitor the development of technology aimed at interfacing the brain with the computer to prevent ethics violations. This was disclosed during Facebook’s F8 conference. Plans to constitute the board are however still at an early stage.
This comes in the wake of reports that Facebook is working on technology that allows users to type straight from their thoughts without having to lift a finger to work the keyboard. Regina Dugan, who heads Building 8, a secretive Facebook research group, said that the brain-computer interface had the capacity to revolutionize how human beings use and interact with technology. Currently, such brain-computer interface technology only exists in medical research but the Building 8 team is committed to bringing it to reality.
In one medical research example, a team of researchers at Stanford University have developed a system that allows a patient who is paralyzed to type 8 words a minute by use of her thoughts which are read by an electrode ray that has been invasively implanted. The ultimate goal of Dugan’s team at Building 8 would be to develop technology that allows typing at a pace that is faster than what is currently possible with the human hands which would be anything above 100 wpm.
But unlike in medical research, Facebook has no plans of making their brain-computer interface technology to be invasively implanted since it would be hard to reach a critical mass. Instead, Facebook is likely to develop devices that use optical and neural imaging. That could come in the form a skull cap that users would have to wear over their heads.
According to Dugan, the brain-computer interface technology could be especially useful in augmented reality since there would be no more need for devices that track body movements such as hand motions. In a sense, the technology would allow the brain to act as a mouse for AR devices.
The brain-computer interface technology has however raised privacy concerns since there are fears that thoughts that were not intended to be shared might end up in the public domain. Facebook, however, maintains that there will be no such violations of privacy.
“…this is about decoding the words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain. Think of it like this: You take many photos and choose to share only some of them,” read an official statement from the social media giant.