CALIFORNIA, United States (Reuters) — At Facebook’s annual developers conference on Wednesday (April 19), the company revealed a secretive unit headed by a former chief of the Pentagon’s research arm, which was 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 Inc’s Google and was previously director of the United States Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
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. Using brain implants, people can already type eight words a minute, she said. Facebook’s goal, working with researchers at several US 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.
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.