Facebook announced Monday that it bought CTRL-labs, a New York startup that develops technology that allows people to control computer user interfaces with their minds. CNBC reported that, according to sources close to the deal, Facebook paid between $500 million and $1 billion for the company. The startup will join the Facebook Reality division, which includes Oculus VR as well as augmented reality and brain-reading experiments.
CTRL-labs was developing a wristband that can receive electrical signals from your spine. Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s Vice President of AR/VR, talked about how this works in a post about the acquisition:
“You have neurons in your spinal cord that send electrical signals to your hand muscles telling them to move in specific ways such as to click a mouse or press a button. The wristband will decode those signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand, empowering you with control over your digital life. It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to.”
Earlier this summer, Facebook presented a similar brain-computer interface technology on which it’s been working for the past two years. However, unlike the CTRL-labs technology, which involves using a wristband, Facebook’s technology was a little more invasive -- it required electrode implants in people’s brains. People would probably be more likely to trust something they can wear over something they have to stick in their brains.
Can You Trust Facebook?
Facebook is an advertising and social media company that makes money off of tracking as much about you online activities as possible. It then uses that collected data to attempt to predict the things in which you may be interested next, so the advertisers using its ad platform can target you more effectively. Being suspicious of the company's efforts to read people's minds--even in as limited a way as this--wouldn't be out of the question.
After all, the datr cookie was initially not supposed to be used for advertising purposes, nor were various other “security features” that Facebook lured users into using, either. However, Facebook has shown again and again that it considers very little (if any) of the data you shared with it to be sacred and not to be used for advertising purposes. How much data might the company be able to glean from a brain-computer interface like CTRL-labs'?