Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Facebook sees computing's future on your wrist

Facebook researchers are rapidly learning how to replace mouse clicks and screen taps with finger twitches. They're doing it by putting a band on your wrist that reads nerve impulses sent by your brain to your hand.

The big picture: Tech insiders widely expect the next generation of computing after the smart phone will be built around some combination of glasses, headphones and other worn devices. The challenge is figuring out how users navigate information and make choices in such a world.

What's new: By picking up brain signals, Facebook's futuristic wristband can interpret small finger-motions as, for instance, typing on an invisible keyboard or clicking on a button that isn't there.

  • This "intelligent click" will be paired with images you'll likely see via augmented-reality glasses — so that the menu items you're selecting, for instance, might appear to be hanging in the air around you.
  • The whole system is stage-managed by predictive AI programs that work to understand where you are and what you might need. When you step into the kitchen, for instance, you might see a recipe.
  • The goal is to give users "exactly the right interaction at the right time," says Tanya Jonker — one of a crew of Facebook Reality Labs researchers who demoed the new technology for reporters this week.

The science behind Facebook's new vision for the human-computer interface — electromyography, or EMG — can read nerve signals in muscles anywhere in the body. But Facebook researchers said the wrist is the ideal spot to apply it.

  • The brain devotes lots of neurons to fine control of hand motion, providing plenty of information for the devices to read.
  • Also, people are already used to wearing stuff on their wrists.

"Brain-computer interfaces" is a field Facebook has been talking about and investing in for years now, but the company is emphasizing that we won't get our hands on this technology for some time.

  • Sean Keller, Facebook Reality Labs director of research, said Facebook was unveiling details of this work early because it knows there are pitfalls and hopes to steer around them with input from outside the company.
  • "We want to open up an important discussion with the public about how to build this technology responsibly," he said.

Likely trouble spots:

  • The more "context" your device knows, the more data it has on you, and Facebook has a long record of playing fast and loose with user information. Researchers say they know they've entered a potential minefield here. "Building a new platform allows us to build security, privacy and safety in from the very start," said Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer.
  • Facebook is all about connecting people. But the examples the researchers discussed, where lone users are cooking a recipe or choosing music to play, are far simpler than interactions between people using these tools, where the potential for privacy problems multiply.
  • Facebook makes money by selling ads, and the "all around you" interface it's building could easily become overloaded with commercial come-ons.

Of note: The Facebook team nodded to the scope of their ambition by showing a still from Douglas Engelbart's celebrated 1968 "mother of all demos."

  • That event introduced the mouse and many other foundations of the graphical computer interfaces we use today.
  • Facebook wants to invent the pieces for what comes after that.

Go deeper: Behind Facebook's giant bet on hardware

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

Keep reading... Show less

UN: 10,000 Palestinians flee homes in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Seven people, including one child, have been killed in Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

Keep reading... Show less

Bernie Sanders: The U.S. must recognize that "Palestinian rights matter"

The United States must encourage an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East and adopt an "evenhanded approach" that recognizes Palestinians and Israelis have a right to "live in peace and security," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times opinion on Friday.

Driving the news: Violence escalated this week after Israelis intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Hamas fired rockets and Israel massed troops, leaving more than 125 Palestinians and seven people in Israel dead.

Keep reading... Show less

Uber launches new anti-racism efforts, hires new inclusive design lead

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

Keep reading... Show less

Ex-Gaetz associate admits to sex trafficking, agrees to cooperate with federal prosecutors

Joel Greenberg, a former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admitted to a variety of federal charges including sex trafficking a minor, New York Times reported Friday citing court papers.

Why it matters: Investigators believe Greenberg introduced women to Gaetz for paid sex and are looking into the Florida congressman's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg could be a key witness as federal prosecutors decide whether to charge Gaetz.

Keep reading... Show less

White House: User fees for infrastructure deal would "violate" Biden's tax pledge

The White House on Friday said that Republicans' idea to impose user fees for infrastructure spending would "violate" President Biden's promise not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 annually.

What they're saying: "The president's pledge and his commitment, his line in the sand, his red line, whatever you want to call it, is that he will not raise taxes for people making less than $400,000 a year," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "User fees that have been proposed out there would violate that."

Keep reading... Show less

City of Columbus, Andre Hill's family agree to $10M settlement over the fatal police shooting

Columbus, Ohio, on Friday reached a $10 million settlement with the family of Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by police as he walked out of a garage while holding a cellphone.

What they're saying: "We understand that because of this former officer's actions, the Hill family will never be whole," City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement. "No amount of money will ever bring Andre Hill back to his family, but we believe this is an important and necessary step in the right direction."

Keep reading... Show less

"Mass Effect": Gaming's biggest space opera returns

The iconic spacefaring adventure "Mass Effect" is back today with "Mass Effect: Legendary Edition," a single, remastered version of all three games.

Why it matters: There is no series like "Mass Effect" — even when it comes to BioWare's other choice-driven RPGs like "Dragon Age." "Mass Effect" is a big ol' space adventure first and foremost, but it’s also about loyalty, love, and tough calls.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories