Facebook’s efforts on building brain computing tech are about to get into high gear following the reportedly $1 billion acquisition of CTRL-Labs, a startup based in New York that focuses on converting user movements into digital input signals and thus allows humans to control computers using their brains. This is something Facebook has had a keen interest in and hopes that in the future will make things like text entry possible just by thinking.
Take a break from the news cycle to check out this adorable robot you can control with your thoughts. Thx @CTRLlabsCo for sharing your tech with us! I scored with this #futurehu assignment, ba dum dum. https://t.co/ynz2PosFZc pic.twitter.com/yYN0JcrJnU
— Elise Hu (@elisewho) July 16, 2019
There’s a lot of neuroscience involved and CTRL-Labs makes for a perfect acquisition as both founders of the company(Thomas Reardon and Patrick Kaifosh) have PHDs in neuroscience from Columbia University. Thomas Reardon has also had experience working in tech as he has nine years under his belt working at Microsoft where he founded the team that built Internet Explorer and was also a technology chief at Openwave Systems.
Alphabet’s GV, Amazon Alexa Fund, Lux Capital, Spark Capital and Founders Fund are among its investors. The company recently raised $67 million.
Join us in welcoming, NYC Startup, CTRL-labs! @CTRLlabsCo has joined the OpenXR Working Group to influence open standards for AR & VR (XR), & seek to broaden the scope to include Electromyography (EMG)-based neural interface integration across all immersive media. Welcome!
— OpenXR (@OpenXR) June 27, 2019
CTRL-Labs has been working on a device that translates neural impulses to digital signals.
Speaking about the acquisition that is yet to be completed, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook VP in charge of AR/VR said in a Facebook post that his company wants to build more natural and intuitive ways to interact with devices and technology. CTRL-Labs will be joining Facebook’s Reality Labs to build this technology at scale and quickly ship products to consumers.
Today we’re thrilled to share that Facebook has agreed to acquire CTRL-labs. Our team is excited to join @boztank and his group Facebook Reality Labs to empower people with non-invasive neural interfaces at scale. https://t.co/b5w8ks62Sj
— CTRL-labs (@CTRLlabsCo) September 23, 2019
“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. It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to. 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,” the post continues.
Imagine if you could control robots using your intentions. @elisewho did it! 🤖🕷️⚽️
— Jesslyn 🇮🇩 (@jtannady) July 16, 2019
There’s a lot of potential with this tech: from hands-free AR glasses to VR gaming and give Facebook an upper hand as rivals like Apple and Microsoft catch up.
Truly LOVE, LOVE these founders—
what a thrill to get to sit on Board with Reardon + Patrick & entire @CTRLlabsCo team—
a front seat to INCREDIBLE science, incredible engineering making real a toally CREDIBLE future for us all 💻🧠🤯 https://t.co/hoXmk0RHrF
— Josh Wolfe (@wolfejosh) September 23, 2019
It expected that more updates about this acquisition among other AR/VR developments could be made during Facebook’s upcoming Oculus Connect 6 developer conference happening later this week.
This acquisition has been welcomed with mixed reactions
A lot of room for innovation in XR interactions. Both HW and SW. No one has cracked it yet and several excellent teams are working hard. https://t.co/qG7viBfVil
— Igor Spivak (@spivak) September 24, 2019
Facebook acquiring a company that specializes in “mind-reading tech” (brain-computer interfaces) is no surprise. Strong investments and research into neurotech for years now. https://t.co/YDstvY4mIn
— Tiffany C. Li (@tiffanycli) September 24, 2019
As someone with wrist pain from too much phone and mouse, I personally welcome Facebook to read my spinal cues and activate the device without moving my hand. https://t.co/zlTeQ9FMJ1
— Katie Notopoulos (@katienotopoulos) September 24, 2019
— Angelica Parente (@draparente) September 24, 2019
In case you’re wondering how people feel about Facebook dropping ~$1 billion on mind-reading technology – which, yes, is apparently happening – the replies to this post say it all https://t.co/JAV4kZyQoN
— Dave Smith (@redletterdave) September 24, 2019
Consumers: I’m becoming very uneasy the more I learn how surveillance capitalism works
Facebook: 🦑I PLAN TO START MONITORING YOUR 🤽🏻♂️PHYSICAL BODY, AND 💭 THOUGHTS https://t.co/FpcdIlKG4Z
— Adtech Elevator (@AdtechElevator) September 24, 2019
Oh. Look at that. Facebook’s newest venture: harvesting thoughts https://t.co/3WOMRmIVT6
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) September 24, 2019