Monday September 16, 2019
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Facebook Develops Augmented Reality Interface Device to Help Users Type with their Mind

The UCSF team has been able to decode a small set of full, spoken words and phrases from brain activity in real time -- a first in the field of BCI research

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Facebook o help patients with neurological damage speak again by detecting intended speech from brain activity in real time. Pixabay

Facebook is developing a brain-computer Augmented Reality (AR) interface device that would help users type with their mind. At its F8 Developers’ Conference in 2017, the company announced its Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) programme — outlining its goal to build a non-invasive, wearable device that lets people type by simply imagining themselves talking.

Facebook is supporting a team of researchers at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) who are working to help patients with neurological damage speak again by detecting intended speech from brain activity in real time.

In a paper appeared in the journal Nature Communications, the UCSF team “has shared how far we have to go to achieve fully non-invasive BCI as a potential input solution for AR glasses”, said Facebook in a blog post on Tuesday.

The UCSF team has been able to decode a small set of full, spoken words and phrases from brain activity in real time — a first in the field of BCI research. The researchers emphasise that their algorithm is so far only capable of recognising a small set of words and phrases, but ongoing work aims to translate much larger vocabularies with dramatically lower error rates.

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Augmented Reality (AR)-powered wearable computers can help those with ASD gain confidence, clarity, understanding, social integration and self-sufficiency. Flickr

“The promise of AR lies in its ability to seamlessly connect people to the world that surrounds them and to each other. Rather than looking down at a phone screen or breaking out a laptop, we can maintain eye contact and retrieve useful information and context without ever missing a beat,” Facebook added.

As Chief Scientist Michael Abrash and the team at Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) see it, “we are standing on the edge of the next great wave in human-oriented computing, one in which the combined technologies of AR and VR converge and revolutionise how we interact with the world around us”.

“It is going to be something completely new, as clean a break from anything that has come before as the mouse/GUI-based interface was from punch cards, printouts, and teletype machines,” said Abrash.

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Facebook first announced in 2017 that its research lab, Building 8, was working on a computer-brain interface. Pixabay

The aim of the BCI research programme at Facebook Reality Labs is to develop a non-invasive, silent speech interface that will let people type just by imagining the words they want to say – a technology that could one day be a powerful input for all-day wearable AR glasses.

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Ultimately, the researchers hope to reach a real-time decoding speed of 100 words per minute with a 1,000-word vocabulary and word error rate of less than 17 per cent. Facebook first announced in 2017 that its research lab, Building 8, was working on a computer-brain interface.

The Facebook programme comes on the heels of Elon Musk-led startup Neuralink’s bold research that has revealed tiny brain “threads” in a chip which is long lasting, usable at home and has the potential to replace cumbersome devices currently used as brain-machine interfaces. (IANS)

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Facebook Offers Help To India On Fake News Traceability On WhatsApp

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country

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Over 300 million of the 550 million smartphone and broadband users in the country are low on literacy and digital literacy. Pixabay

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country, without any reference towards tracing the origin of the WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp had categorically said in the past that the government’s demand to trace the origin of messages on its platform is not possible as it “undermines the privacy of the people”.

Clegg who was the UK’s former Deputy Prime Minister before joining Facebook, visited India last week and met several senior government officials, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and offered to assist law enforcement agencies in all possible ways like Artificial Intelligence-driven data analytics and access to “meta-data”.

“Facebook cares deeply about the safety of people in India and Nick’s meetings this week provided opportunities to discuss our commitment to supporting privacy and security in every app we provide and how we can continue to work productively with the government of India towards these shared goals,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

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When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message. Pixabay

Last December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed changes to Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

The proposed regulations require a company to “enable tracing out of originators of information on its platform as required by legally authorised government agencies”.

The end-to-end encryption feature in WhatsApp makes it difficult for law enforcement authorities to find out the culprit behind a misinformation campaign.

The mobile messaging platform with over 400 million users has already called the proposed changes “overbroad”.

“Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine the end-to-end encryption, and its private nature, leading to possibilities of being misused,” a company spokesperson had earlier said.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook has over 300 million users in India.

WhatsApp in February stressed that some of the proposed government regulations for social media companies operating in India are threatening the very existence of the app in its current form.

“Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages,” Carl Woog, WhatsApp’s Head of Communications, had told IANS.

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The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Facebook has filed a petition to transfer the case looking at enforcing traceability on WhatsApp to the Supreme Court. It is currently sub judice in the Madras High Court.

Tamil Nadu, however, is aiming to get Facebook’s transfer petition dismissed by the Supreme Court.

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras recently stressed that the issue can be easily resolved without diluting end-to-end encryption and affecting the privacy of users.

“If WhatsApp says it is not technically possible to show the originator of the message, I can show that it is possible,” said V. Kamakoti.

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When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message.

So the message and the identity of the creator can be seen only by the recipient.

“When that recipient forwards the message, his/her identity can be revealed to the next recipient,” he said, adding that as per the court ruling, those who forward a harmful message can also be held responsible in certain cases. (IANS)