Regina Dugan, the leader of Facebook’s secretive Building 8 hardware research group, today provided the first official hints about what her organization has been working on.
Dugan joined Facebook last year after spending four years at Google, where she was chief of the company’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) group. That’s the organization behind the Project Ara modular smartphone concept, which ended up dying an inevitable death. Other ATAP projects like Project Vault have not shipped, either.
Earlier this week The Information reported that Building 8 has been working on a vibrating “haptic vest” as well as more generally augmented reality technology. But today Dugan talked about two other projects.
First, Facebook is testing a sort of sleeve you can wear on your arm that will let you perceive certain signals through a custom-built artificial cochlea.
Additionally Facebook is working on non-invasive sensors that will let people communicate. The goal is to let you type at 100 words a minute from your brain. But not everything rolling around your brain — just the things you’re ready to convey. On this project Facebook is teaming up with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco; University of California, Berkeley; Johns Hopkins Medicine; Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory; and Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis.
“If we put these things together, it suggests one day not so far away it may be possible for me to think in Mandarin and for you to feel it instantly in Spanish,” Dugan said. “Imagine the power such a capability would give to 780 million people around the world who cannot read or write but can … think and feel.”
Facebook is unveiling these projects weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that Elon Musk was working on Neuralink, a startup developing “neural lace” technology.