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Neuroscientists Offer a Reality Check On Facebook's 'Typing By Brain' Project ( 58

the_newsbeagle writes: Yesterday, Facebook announced that it's working on a "typing by brain" project, promising a non-invasive technology that can decode signals from the brain's speech center and translate them directly to text (see the video beginning at 1:18:00). What's more, Facebook exec Regina Dugan said, the technology will achieve a typing rate of 100 words per minute. Here, a few neuroscientists are asked: Is such a thing remotely feasible? One neuroscientist points out that his team set the current speed record for brain-typing earlier this year: They enabled a paralyzed man to type 8 words per minute, and that was using an invasive brain implant that could get high-fidelity signals from neurons. To date, all non-invasive methods that read brain signals through the scalp and skull have performed much worse. Thomas Naselaris, an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, says, "Our understanding of the way the words and their phonological and semantic attributes are encoded in brain activity is actually pretty good currently, but much of this understanding has been enabled by fMRI, which is noninvasive but very slow and not at all portable," he said. "So I think that the bottleneck will be the [optical] imaging technology," which is what Facebook's gear will be using.
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Neuroscientists Offer a Reality Check On Facebook's 'Typing By Brain' Project

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  • Scientisis (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday April 21, 2017 @07:16AM (#54275261) Homepage Journal
    Those fuddy duddy scientists know nothing. Facebook will make an APP for it. In the Cloud. VR and IoT ready.
  • by TheOuterLinux ( 4778741 ) on Friday April 21, 2017 @07:37AM (#54275309)
    From what I learned doing research, I also think 100 words per minute is extreme. You wouldn't believe the artifacts you get just from blinking or moving a leg or finger, and I had a 21 channel MITSAR and WinEEG to work with. The only way this is going to work is if Facebook has plans involving AI and quantum computing, a very dangerous combination for privacy. This is because an AI would have to get to know your brain waves on an incredibly intimate level, making encryption a joke when your brain is getting digitally fingerprinted. If what they say works, both the polygraph test and "truth serum" would be a joke. The only actual application for finding brainwave averages between people currently is to add to the "what are artifacts" knowledge and perhaps a quick and dirty diagnoses. Very rarely have I ever been able to use EEG to find correlations in research because everyone is too different and there is always some kind of confounding variable. Biofeedback projects in EEG sort of works for fun little things, but it's not the same thing as "mind reading" or 100 words per minute good. Now, I've played around with Tobii eye tracking, and that would be their best bet. In the the Linux and open source world we have a program called Dasher that may work with eye tracking to get their quota. Besides, doesn't Facebook have enough biometric data or are their government overlords hungry for more? This is why they'll never go bankrupt, as long as they have projects like this. Meanwhile, other more important research gets cut.
    • by xvan ( 2935999 )
      But what about correlations between different samples of the same person. With enough training this may be feasible.
      • HBI (Human Brain Indices) Database is what is used: []. WinEEG did have this as an add-on option, but the department wouldn't splurge for it, so I was stuck using experience versus whatever WinEEG was nice enough to include for cleanup, to which presents another problem. If you clean up artifacts, you have to use the same processes whether it is the same or another person. And no matter how many artifacts you can remove, time, temperature, clothing, hair style, health, etc. af
  • Unfortunate (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday April 21, 2017 @08:00AM (#54275365)
    I would have had first post, but I used a prototype to type this :(
  • Used to sell a brain controlled mouse, IIRC.

    • When I worked at the Google IT help desk in 2008, a user called in to have a tech take remote control of her desktop and move the mouse on her instructions. So she called a coworker over to demonstrate a voice-controlled mouse. When the user gave instructions to move the mouse, the tech moved the mouse for her. The coworker was so amazed by this until she found out it was a prank.
  • 100 words per minutes might be a stretch, but it doesn't sound all that impossible given that the speed record was set with hunt&peck typing by moving a cursor across the screen. Some fancy machine learning that could guess whole words at a time or something along the line should have no problem beating that by quite a margin. It wouldn't even need to be perfect, just close enough, to give a drastic speed up (i.e. like Tab-completion).

    See this earlier work [] that guessed video sequences from brain activit

  • I'm using it wiggle fingers right now foot itches squirrel is it lunch time yet and it works perfectly did I leave the oven on well I smell pizza i can't believe I did that 10 years ago.

  • Invasive brain implants for everyone!

  • They should make sure Facebook developers have a brain in the first place. Every piece software developed by FB is pure garbage. Is this some kind of lame attempt to get brainwaves data depending on what FB advertisement users are seing? Besides that BCI input devices have been around for years. He's trying so hard to be Elon Musk.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur