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Brain-to-text Technology? Facebook is studying ways for people to communicate by thought and touch

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Regina Dugan, vice president of engineering of Building 8 at Facebook, speaks on stage during the second day of the annual Facebook F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, April 19, 2017. VOA
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Facebook on Wednesday pulled aside the curtain on a secretive unit headed by a former chief of the Pentagon’s research arm, disclosing that the social media company is studying ways for people to communicate by thought and touch.

Facebook launched the research shop, called Building 8, last year to conduct long-term work that might lead to hardware products. In charge of the unit is Regina Dugan, who led a similar group at Alphabet’s Google and was previously director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

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Dugan told software developers at Facebook’s annual F8 conference that the company was modeling Building 8 after DARPA, a government office founded in the 1950s that gave the world the internet and the miniaturized GPS receivers used in consumer devices.

Any hardware rollouts are years away, Dugan said in a speech. Potential products could, if successful, be a way for Facebook to diversify beyond its heavy reliance on advertising revenue.

One example of Building 8’s work so far, Dugan said, was an attempt to improve technology that allows people to type words using their minds.

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“It sounds impossible, but it’s closer than you may realize,” Dugan said.

Using brain implants, people can already type eight words a minute, she said. Facebook’s goal, working with researchers at several U.S. universities, is to make the system non-invasive, as well as fast enough so that people can type 100 words a minute just by thinking.

Possible uses include helping disabled people and “the ability to text your friend without taking out your phone,” she said.

Another Building 8 project, she said, was trying to advance the ability to communicate through touch only, an idea with roots in Braille, a writing system for the blind and visually impaired.

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A video played at the conference showed two Facebook employees talking to each other through touch. As one employee, Frances, wore an electronic device on her arm, the other, Freddy, used a computer program to send pressure changes to her arm.

“If you ask Frances what she feels,” Dugan said, “she’ll tell you that she has learned to feel the acoustic shape of a word on her arm.”

In December, Facebook signed a deal with 17 universities including Harvard and Princeton to allow swifter collaboration on projects with Dugan’s team. (VOA)

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Facebook might lose $23 billion

This planned change sparked fears people will spend less time on the site, leading to its share stock suddenly dropping.

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Facebook shares fell down by 4% after Mark Zuckerberg announced a change in News Feed feature.
Facebook shares fell down by 4% after Mark Zuckerberg announced a change in News Feed feature.
  • Facebook recently was on the verge of losing $23 billion after they decided to make some changes in the News Feed feature.
  • The change was announced in order to make the time spent on the social networking site more meaningful.
  • However, the change leads to a 4% fall in the share of the Facebook.

Facebook was on course to lose 17 billion pounds ($23 billion) of its value after it announced it was making changes to its News Feed feature that will allow users to see more updates from family and friends than posts from businesses, brands and media.

Facebook share fell 4 percent within hours after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the changes to make the social network more meaningful, The Sun reported.

This change was supposed to make Facebook more meaningful. Pixabay
This change was supposed to make Facebook more meaningful. Pixabay

This could also result in lining them up for its worst financial position in more than three months — and Zuckerberg losing $3.3 billion of his own personal net worth.

“One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent. We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us,” Zuckerberg posted on Facebook late on Thursday.

The CEO said that Facebook has got a feedback from the community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

The change will show more posts by family and friends instead of brands and businesses, Pixabay
The change will show more posts by family and friends instead of brands and businesses, Pixabay

“We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to help you have more meaningful social interactions,” he said.

“As we roll this out, you will see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people,” Zuckerberg added.

This planned change sparked fears people will spend less time on the site, leading to its share stock suddenly dropping.

Zuckerberg admitted that the new changes might not pay off at first, but believes it is important users have more meaningful social interactions, The Sun said. IANS