Facebook To Acquire Brain-Control Startup CTRL-Labs

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Controlling computers with the power of your mind. Facebook acquires startup CTRL-Labs for $1 billion

Facebook has acquired a US-based start-up called CTRL-Labs, that aims to provide a way for the human brain to control a computer via a wristband.

The neurotechnology firm, whose previous investors include Amazon’s Alexa Fund, is seeking to develop a wristband for controlling smartphones, computers and other digital devices without the need to touch a screen or even a keyboard.

And now a Facebook executive has revealed in a post that the social networking giant has acquired the New-York-based firm for an undisclosed sum. The Financial Times meanwhile, citing one person familiar with the matter, said that Facebook will pay about $1bn – the same price it paid for photo sharing app Instagram in 2012.

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CTRL-Labs acquisition

There is no official confirmation of the deal at the time of writing, but the acquisition was revealed when Facebook’s VP of AR and VR, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, announced the planned acquisition of CTRL-Labs via his Facebook page.

“We spend a lot of time trying to get our technology to do what we want rather than enjoying the people around us,” wrote Bozworth. “We know there are more natural, intuitive ways to interact with devices and technology. And we want to build them.”

“It’s why we’ve agreed to acquire CTRL-labs,” wrote Bozworth. “They will be joining our Facebook Reality Labs team where we hope to build this kind of technology, at scale, and get it into consumer products faster.”

It should be noted that if the $1 billion purchase price is true, it represents a huge amount for a start-up that had previously raised $67 million in funding over three rounds of investments, since it was founded back in 2015.

But Facebook has previously expressed its desire to achieve a human brain and computer interface.

Wearable interface

In April 2017, Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s Building 8, the product development and research team at Facebook and a former DARPA lead, explained how brain interface systems currently used in medical cases, allow people for eight words per minute for people, but that system requires the use of implanted electrodes (into the brain), and according to Dugan, “that simply won’t scale”.

Instead explained how Facebook wanted to develop non-invasive sensors that can read the brain through hair, skin and skull (i.e a wearable device rather than a surgically implanted one).

And CTRL-Labs will help in this regard as it is developing a wristband that ‘decodes’ the electrical signals that neurons in the spinal cord sends to hand muscles. These signals tell your hands to move in a specific way, such as press a button or click a mouse.

At this stage it is unclear how CTRL-Labs and its tech will be incorporated into upcoming virtual and augmented reality products from Facebook.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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