Facebook is buying CTRL-Labs, a tech startup that is developing software to let individuals control a digital avatar using only their thoughts. Facebook is reported paying US$1 billion for the acquisition deal.
The four-year-old startup, which has dozens of employees and has raised tens of millions in venture capital, uses a bracelet to measure neuron activity in a subject’s arm to determine movement that person is thinking about, even if they aren’t physically moving. That neuron activity is then translated into movement on a digital screen.
The technology used in CTRL-Labs may someday be a crucial part of products like augmented reality glasses, where a user might want to control a computer without the need for buttons or a keyboard. “Your hands could be in your pocket, behind you. It’s the intention to move, not the movement itself that controls the avatar”, commented Thomas Reardon, chief executive officer of CTRL-Labs.
Social Media giant,Facebook has been pushing deeper into augmented reality technology, including the development of a hands-free pair of AR glasses. In 2017, it announced a “brain-computer interface” that could someday let people turn their thoughts into actual text on a screen by monitoring signals in the brain. The CTRL-Labs technology is attempting to solve a similar problem.
Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of AR and virtual reality commented in an interview with Thailand Startup News, “The wristband will decode those [neural] signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand.It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to.”
“CTRL-Labs and Facebook are not competitors. Facebook does not currently have or make this technology.CTRL-Labs’s technology is an innovative input that Facebook hopes will be used to significantly improve the upcoming Facebook AR/VR experiences a few years down the road to fundamentally improve the user experience.” a Facebook spokeswoman said.
New York-based CTRL-Labs has raised US$67 million and has a high-profile list of investors, including Spark Capital, Google’s GV, Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa Fund, and Founders Fund. CTRL-Labs employees will join Facebook’s Reality Labs team, which works on AR and VR products.
The purchase comes at a challenging time for Facebook, which is under two separate U.S. antitrust investigations. The inquiries mean any acquisition the company makes will be under intense scrutiny from regulators as they question whether Facebook is already too big and powerful.
Facebook is also having problems launching its token, Libra and also is facing a massive drop of users and followers of its platform and also advertising revenue as it is no longer a viable tool for promoting businesses or ecommerce.