Wednesday Afternoon Headlines: Two Years After Freddie Gray's Death; Errant Bat...


The Bay Has a Lot More Female Blue Crabs This Year, and They're Ready to Spawn

Lifeline, Schools

Hopkins Lab and Facebook’s Building 8 Creating New Hands-Free, Silent Way to Type

2 Written by: | Wednesday, Apr 19, 2017 4:47pm

Image via Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

A project under development by Johns Hopkins’ Laurel-based Applied Physics Lab and Facebook’s top-secret Building 8 would eliminate the need to use one’s hands or even speak to type out thoughts on a keyboard.

Hopkins Applied Physics Lab director Ralph Sammel announced today at Facebook’s F8 conference in San Jose that his team is working with Facebook developers to use advances in neural prosthetics, or technologies designed to perform natural brain functions, to translate thoughts directly to the keyboard.

The collaboration “focuses on developing a silent speech interface that will allow users to type 100 words per minute — five times faster than typing on a smartphone — using only their thoughts,” according to a release from Hopkins.

Basically, users would be able type out their thoughts in rapid-fire fashion without saying anything aloud or performing any physical work.

The Applied Physics Lab-Building 8 partnership began in December 2016, when Facebook picked the lab, Johns Hopkins University as a whole and 15 other universities as research collaborators. Per, Facebook streamlined the partnership process by paying each school a fee on a project-by-project basis to design new technologies with Building 8, rather than using the more prolonged research university partnership process.

The lab’s “Revolutionizing Prosethetics” program was born out of a collaboration with the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that produced the most advanced brain-controlled prosthetic limb ever, according to Hopkins. The technology has since been used to give paralyzed patients the ability to perform physical actions, such as eat or, more ambitiously, operate a fighter jet simulator.

The Applied Physics Lab furthered its research by working with Hopkins Medicine on a process to decode information about the meaning of words from brain signals, which can be gathered from electrodes implanted on the surface of the human brain. The next step in APL’s research has been to craft a way to gather those signals in a noninvasive manner (i.e. no electrodes on the brain).

“This program is an excellent example of how APL is transitioning novel technologies developed for Revolutionizing Prosthetics into other domains,” Semmel said in the Hopkins release. “The research agreement with Facebook has also allowed us to expand our pioneering brain–machine interface work, and further combine our expertise in neuroscience with our expertise in optical imaging.”

While a potential commercial application for the typing technology is apparent, researchers also say the system would open new doors for doctors to better understand brain health and neurological processes.

Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod

Associate Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan is the associate editor for Baltimore Fishbowl. He previously covered Baltimore-area news as a web producer for Fox45/WBFF-TV. Before arriving in Baltimore, he worked as an assistant editor for CQ Researcher in Washington D.C., a freelance writer for DCist and a reporter for Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia.
Ethan McLeod

Leave a Review or Comment

Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked with *.

Please or Register so you don't have to fill out your name each time.

  • Mike

    Fantastic! Soon life will be a solitary experience where true social interaction and any eye contact with a fellow human being can be a thing of the past. People can immerse themselves in their own self-created, self-centered realities. Yippie! I can’t wait.

  • Mike

    And imagine the advertising possibilities. Say I’m worried about my elderly mother’s health. Facebook can just put ads for coffins and bargain funeral services straight into my brain. Say there’s a school shooting and being shot is on my mind, ads for guns and bullet proof vests right to my brain. Say I have cancer and am getting chemotherapy, ads for cheap wigs and Ensure. I cannot wait!


Wednesday Afternoon Headlines: Two Years After Freddie Gray's Death; Errant Bat...


The Bay Has a Lot More Female Blue Crabs This Year, and They're Ready to Spawn

Recent Comments

Roz Warren
The Long Way to Okay

"Maybe I'll come up with some kind of pithy insightful comment once I stop weeping. Great...

Movie Review: Squaring the Circle

"Unnecessary to scare me away from a film I already did not want to see.

Sue Chapelle
GreenLaurel: Big Towson Solar Install is Win For Seniors, Job Seekers and Climate

"Wonderful project - for the environment, for the residents, and for the students who are...

Pink Gun Draws Attention in Robbery Near Patterson Park

"Only the most confident of men can use a pink gun.

Lindsay Fleming
Child Whispering

"oh, Ann...! how sweet. thank you