Facebook might just be the world's largest social networking platform for the world, but tech enthusiasts know how deeply it is invested in the future of tech. Besides some valuable acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook has acquired several startups to help its vision of the future. The Menlo Park-based company has a dedicated Reality Labs division focused on VR and AR technologies and another new startup has joined Facebook to bolster those efforts.
Facebook announced its latest acquisition on Monday, confirming that CTRL-Labs will be joining the company's Reality Labs team. CTRL-Labs is the startup behind mind-reading wristband that lets people control devices like computers using their brains. Imagine a future where you won't need a traditional mouse-and-keyboard or even touch the screen to interact with the machines. Well, that seems plausible now.
"Technology like this has the potential to open up new creative possibilities and reimagine 19th-century inventions in a 21st-century world. This is how our interactions in VR and AR can one day look. It can change the way we connect," Facebook VP of AR and VR, Andrew "Boz" Bosworth wrote in a post.
While the financial details of the acquisition were not revealed, CNBC pegs the deal at somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. If true, it could be the biggest acquisition for Facebook since Oculus in 2014, which it bought for around $2 billion. Facebook hopes to use the technology of CTRL-Labs into its AR and VR projects and also help get it into consumer products faster, Boz said.
If the mind-reading wristband seems like a gimmick, we bet you it's not. The technology developed by CTRL-Labs decodes signals sent from your spinal cord to the hand muscles to move in specific ways, which in this case refers to clicking a mouse or pressing a button. Those decoded signals are translated into a digital signal - something your machine can understand, and voila, the magic happens.
CTRL-Labs CEO and co-founder, Thomas Reardon, who is a neuroscientist, will be joining Facebook's Reality Labs team along with other employees who choose to. The startup had managed to raise $67 million since it was founded in 2015. Its most recent fundraising was in February, where it secured $28 million from Alphabet's GV and Amazon's Alexa Fund.
Given Facebook's efforts in VR, AR and brain-computer interface project, CTRL-Labs seems like a perfect fit. The company's Reality Labs based is working on a prototype that is capable of reading and decoding brain activity while the study subjects speak. With the startup's expertise in a similar area, these efforts could finally shape into consumer products faster than we expect. But it's still a long way down the road, so remain patient.