Facebook, still fending off a wave of outrage centred around its privacy practices, is continuing its push into brain-computer interface (BCI) technology - this time with the acquisition of CTRl-Labs.
While Facebook is currently still facing billions of dollars in fines and increasing governmental scrutiny over how it monetises the data of its many users, the company has been progressing its efforts at doing away with the clunky keyboard as an input device. Earlier this year Facebook funded research into a brain-computer interface (BCI) capable of transcoding the thought of speech into text in real time though its Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) division. Now, it's splashing out between $500 million and $1 billion to acquire BCI specialist CTRL-Labs.
According to details of the deal provided to Bloomberg by unnamed sources, the acquisition will see the four-year-old startup becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of Facebook. CTRL-Labs specialises in non-invasive hardware, in particular a bracelet claimed to monitor neuronal activity in the wearer to determine movement intent even without any actual physical muscle activity, which translates thoughts into on-screen action - initially, the control of a player avatar.
Facebook has not offered a public comment on the value of the acquisition, but head of augmented and virtual reality Andrew Bosworth confirmed the deal and confirmed the functionality that had interested the company in CTRL-Labs: 'The wristband will decode those [neural] signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand,' Bosworth claims. 'It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to.'
The deal is expected to close in the coming months, following regulatory approvals; neither Facebook nor CTRL-Labs have given a timescale for commercialisation of the wristband technology.
February 24 2020 | 12:00