Facebook's New Wristband Lets You Control Computers With Your Mind

The neural interface wristband might pair with AR glasses.
Brad Bergan

Facebook's first smart glasses are coming out this year, but the next model might let you control computers with your mind, according to a new blog post from Facebook Reality Labs.

The company envisions AR glasses working together with a soft wristband capable of measuring hand and finger gestures — and even supports haptic feedback.

Neural wristbands can input computer commands faster than fingers

Facebook is splitting neural input enhancements into two stages: firstly is the "nearer term" development, which employs "wrist-based input combined with usable but limited contextualized AI." Neural input technology measures the internal activity of electrical impulses of the human body — typically in the head or arms — and converts signals into inputs for controlling a computer.

This can serve as a shortcut for commands to fingers or hands, the muscles for which may actually respond slower than a computer input, registering the electrical signal still on its way to human finger muscles. Facebook aims to announce more on "soft robotics research, comfortable, all-day wearable devices," and additional developments on haptic gloves later in 2021.

Researchers at Facebook Reality Labs said their wearable AR controller will offer greatly advanced capabilities like touch-sensitive virtual interfaces and objects — including the ability to lift virtual objects at a distance. This novel tech may also let you type on a virtual keyboard on your lap or table, at higher speeds than physical keyboards can handle, according to the Facebook blog post.

"Neural interfaces, when they work right — and we still have a lot of work to go here — feel like magic," said Director of Neuromotor interfaces Thomas Reardon of Facebook Reality Labs during a video included in the announcement.

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Facebook continues to view AR and VR as a significant new area for growth — after all, it acquired Oculus VR n 2014. With ambitions to be at the forefront of the nascent technology, and become integral to computer interface realities in the coming decades.

Facebook aims to inherit the future of computer interface AR and VR technology

The social media juggernaut is also into building AI-powered and contextually-aware interfaces for AR glasses. During the 2020 Facebook Connect conference, the company announced a new pair of upcoming AR smart glasses — beginning with Ray-Ban models slated for launch sometime later this year.

This marks the first time neural technology has shown up in a Facebook product — and this one focuses on wrist-based EMG (electromyography) as the path for developing wristband devices as an initial stage, and then move forward with haptic gloves and more cohesive wearables later.

However, the wristband neural input device might disappear as Facebook's health and messaging-focused smartwatch comes to fruition. Time will tell if Facebook Reality Labs inherits the next generation of computer interface, or opts for a more conventional market share of novel digital technology.

This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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