Facebook has bought a startup specializing in neural interface technology, suggesting it might be interested in building the technology into a future Oculus virtual reality headset.
As Bloomberg reports, Facebook bought New York company CTRL-Labs for a figure between $500,000 and $1 million. The four-year-old company will be integrated into Facebook Reality Labs – the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) unit formerly known as Oculus Research.
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CTRL-Labs has developed a wristband that allows users to control an on-screen avatar. The band doesn't 'read minds' – instead, it detects neuron activity in your arm, and works even if you only think about moving it.
“Your hands could be in your pocket, behind you,” explained the company's CEO Thomas Reardon at a conference in December. “It’s the intention [to move], not the movement.”
VR without controllers
Interacting in VR is a tricky prospect. Trigger-style controllers (like those used by existing Oculus headsets) work well for games, but aren't always a good fit for other virtual experiences. The ability to move an avatar with only a thought could be a much better match for social interaction.
When TechRadar spoke to Anna Kozminski (AR/VR software manager at Facebook Zurich in Switzerland) earlier this month about the company's work on immersive VR, she emphasized the importance of making the experience as natural as possible. "With a VR experience, ultimately you want it to feel as fluid as real life," she said.
Her vision for the future of VR is one where you can speak to friends and relatives in other countries as though there's no difference in geography at all. Truly hands-free interaction could be a big step towards making that possible.