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Facebook is buying a startup that makes a wristband to control computers with a twitch

September 24, 2019
CTRL-labs' prototypes
CTRL-labs' prototypesCTRL-labs

CTRL-labs is working on “noninvasive neural interface platform” that lets people control machines using a wristband.

The news: Facebook has agreed to buy CTRL-labs, a New York–based startup that is working on methods for people to communicate with computers using brain signals. The deal is worth between $500 million to $1 billion, according to CNBC.

The company: CTRL-labs launched four years ago. There isn’t a ton of public information about its technology and its research, but it claims it has made a wristband that can turn signals sent from your spinal cord to your wrist into input for a computer. How well it works remains to be seen. Brain-computer interfaces of the sort used by people who are paralyzed typically require a lot of training to work effectively, and even then they are sluggish and prone to errors. Elon Musk’s Neuralink is trying something similar, but its interface is actually fitted inside the user’s brain.

What? It might seem a strange acquisition for a social-media company, but in fact, it makes a lot of sense. In July, Facebook revealed it has been financing extensive university research on human volunteers. It’s trying to develop “speech decoders” that can figure out what people want to say by analyzing their brain signals. Whether the public at large will be comfortable with Facebook reading minds remains to be seen. 

Correction: This story originally stated the deal was worth $1 billion, but the correct figure is $500 million to $1 billion, according to CNBC. 

This story first appeared in our daily newsletter The Download. Sign up here to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.

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