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

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

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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Apple’s ‘Families’ to help curb kids’ screen addiction

Not only Apple, Facebook, which has over two billion users, is also making drastic changes to its News Feed that will allow users to see more updates from family and friends

Apple logo. Pixabay
  • Apple has introduced new ‘Families’ page to this website
  • The aim is to curb children’s addiction to screens
  • The app will benefit the community

To help parents control their children’s screen addiction touted as a “growing public health crisis”, Apple has introduced a new page called “Families” on its website.

The page has features like “Ask To Buy” tool that lets parents approve or decline app purchases from their device. “Find My Friends” feature lets parents keep track of their kids’ locations, get alerts when they leave or arrive somewhere, and see distances and travel times to where they are.

Apple got lukewarm response for iPhone X. Pixabay
Parents can even track the activities of their children. Pixabay

Another app management feature lets users automatically block in-app purchases. It has the option to limit adult content on kids’ devices and restricts browsing to only pre-approved websites.

“We’ve also made it easy for parents to set privacy controls on their kids’ devices. We’re continually designing new features to help make sure kids use them in the ways you want,” Apple said on the new page.

Two key Apple shareholders had requested the Cupertino-based iPhone maker to take urgent steps to safeguard young users from the ill-effects of iPhone addiction.

Also Read: Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

In a letter, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System told Apple to make its products safer for the younger users.

Not only Apple, Facebook, which has over two billion users, is also making drastic changes to its News Feed that will allow users to see more updates from family and friends than posts from businesses, brands, and media.

Facebook is also concentrating more towards friends and family of its users. VOA

According to its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 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. IANS