Facebook is making a major investment into mind control, and while that would normally scare the spit out of us, we are actually optimistic about this latest venture. Or acquisition, we should say—Facebook has agreed to acquire CTRL-labs, a brain-computing startup that developed a wristband users can control with their minds.
Following the acquisition, CTRL-labs will join the Facebook Reality Labs team. The goal is to flesh out technology that allows for interacting with devices in "more natural, intuitive ways." How exactly this will manifest remains to be seen, though Facebook seems intrigued by the idea of a neural wristband.
"The vision for this work 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," explains Andrew Bosworth, vice president of AR/VR at Facebook.
There are a multitude of ways something like this can be leveraged. Bosworth offers up an example—sharing a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement, or simply by thinking of the action.
Extended out, this technology could find its way into VR and AR applications. Those seem like obvious destinations, given Bosworth's involvement here.
"Technology like this has the potential to open up new creative possibilities and reimagine 19th century inventions in a 21st century world. This is how our interactions in VR and AR can one day look. It can change the way we connect," Bosworth says.
Thomas Reardon and Patrick Kaifosh found CTRL-labs in 2015. Both have PhDs in neuroscience from Columbia University, while Reardon previously spent almost a decade at Microsoft. Now they will be working at Facebook, which paid at least $500 million (and less than $1 billion) for the company, according to sources who spoke with CNBC.
Facebook will have to be careful about the optics on this one. The company has caught heat on multiple occasions for lapses in privacy, most notably the Cambridge Analytical scandal that compromised data of 87 million Facebook users.
Brain computing is not new to Facebook, though. It has been working on this kind of technology for the past several years. Now it gets a big boost from the human brains (and IP) at CTRL-labs.