Facebook purchase startup with brain-machine interface technology

September 25, 2019 // By Rich Pell
Facebook buys brain-machine interface startup
Social media giant Facebook (Menlo Park, CA) has agreed to acquire brain-machine interface startup CTRL-Labs (New York, NY), which is developing technology that lets users control a digital avatar using only their thoughts.

CTRL-Labs' non-invasive technology uses a wristband to measure neuron activity in a user's arm to determine movement the user is thinking about, even if they aren't physically moving. The wristband decodes the neural signals and translate them into a digital signal that controls movement of an avatar on a digital screen.

"Technology like this has the potential to open up new creative possibilities and reimagine 19th century inventions in a 21st century world," says Facebook Vice President of AR/VR Andrew “Boz” Bosworth in a post announcing the acquisition. "This is how our interactions in VR and AR can one day look. It can change the way we connect."

Such technology could, for example, allow a user to control a computer without the need for buttons or a keyboard.

"The vision for this work," says Bosworth, "is a wristband that lets people control their devices as a natural extension of movement. Here's how it'll work: You have neurons in your spinal cord that send electrical signals to your hand muscles telling them to move in specific ways such as to click a mouse or press a button. The wristband will decode those signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand, empowering you with control over your digital life. It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to."

In 2017 Facebook revealed it had a team of engineers working on building a brain-computer interface that would allow users to "type" with just their minds without invasive implants. The company has also been researching augmented reality (AR) technology and has been working on the development of standalone AR glasses that reportedly would not need to be tethered to a smartphone.

"We know there are more natural, intuitive ways to interact with devices and technology," says Bosworth. "And we want to build them. It’s why we've

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