At its annual F8 developer conference, Facebook announced a beta trial of its Thoughts project. Thoughts is a collaboration between Facebook and the research community that has set a goal of typing 100 words per minute, 5x faster than typing on a smartphone, straight from someone's brain. The interface between the brain and the integrated app is the Thoughts API that bypasses the need for keyboard, words, or other motor functions.
In her keynote presentation, Facebook's Regina Dugan described a fundamental problem with human communication. Humans can process the data equivalent of 4 - 40 high definition movies each second, but can only speak at a rate equal to a 1980 modem. Dugan concluded: "Speech is essentially a compression algorithm, and a lousy one at that." Facebook has partnered with 60 scientists and researchers from institutions such as UCSF, John Hopkins, and Berkley to directly connect the brain with apps.
Facebook envisions limitless examples for this new augmented reality feature. At the basic level, users can send texts or emails without taking out a phone. However, exploring more options that Facebook suggests makes one wonder how much control one might have over the thoughts that are shared. Consider three examples shared on the project's GitHub site:
- News: learn what events and topics people are thinking about in real-time
- Commerce: target customers who are thinking of purchasing your product
- Law Enforcement: detect people's intentions to commit crimes and prevent them from ever happening
It's clear, the ethical ramifications of successful project completion must be further explored. But, the tech is intriguing and it could lead to at least a cool new tool, and at most a fundamental shift in the way humans communicate with each other and the world around them. For those interested in exploring more, apply to participate in the beta.