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Facebook details bizarre mind-reading wristbands for AR glasses

Facebook AR Wristband
(Image credit: Facebook)

Facebook Reality Labs has been teasing the futuristic capabilities of its "stylish" AR glasses as of late, and although the tech giant's Reality Labs division says the tech is many years off, it showed a wrist-based wearable that "may be possible much sooner."

Facebook is working on a wrist-based wearable that uses your brain to animate your hand and finger muscles, letting users click, tap, type and swipe in AR. Is Facebook taking a few cues from Tony Stark's tech setup in Marvel movies? Quite possibly, and we like where it's going. 

In the blog post, Facebook Reality Labs showcased what the AR wristbands could do, with the aim of eliminating the need for a separate device or voice control in order to interact in VR. Instead, the devices would be placed on your wrist like a watch, intended to be used as "all-day wear."

“What we’re trying to do with neural interfaces is to let you control the machine directly, using the output of the peripheral nervous system — specifically the nerves outside the brain that animate your hand and finger muscles,” said FRL Director of Neuromotor Interfaces Thomas Reardon in the post. 

The future is in the wrist

Facebook AR Wristband

(Image credit: Facebook)

As the post explains, the AR wristbands will have a broad array of sensors, with the key ingredient being electromyography (EMG). This allows sensors to translate electrical motor nerve signals that travel through the wrist to the hand into digital commands that you can use to control the functions of a device. In other words, the wristbands read your mind in order to trigger commands.

Apparently, EMG can easily register a finger motion of just a millimeter using signals through the wrist, and eventually, even the intention to move the finger.

Currently, the device can register what Facebook calls "clicks," meaning it can recognise the tap of a button. Examples posed in its videos show tapping to select a song, turning on a switch, clicking a mouse, and typing on a keyboard. Facebook will continue to work on the potential of the device, but it seems to be putting more of a focus on AR keyboard typing first.

"It’s highly likely that ultimately you’ll be able to type at high speed with EMG on a table or your lap — maybe even at a higher speed than is possible with a keyboard today. Initial research is promising," the blog states. The wristbands are meant to be used with Facebook's AR glasses, and as the videos suggest, a virtual keyboard would leave room for a more personalized typing experience. We truly would become one with the keyboard!

There's plenty more the AR wristbands are expected to be capable of, including having haptic feedback — something we're now seeing Sony using for its upcoming PSVR 2 controllers. Additionally, Facebook gave us a glimpse of how the wristbands could be used for gaming, like pulling a bowstring and firing off an arrow in an archery simulator.

Of course, there's a whole world of possibilities shown off, which we'll hopefully see sooner than the AR glasses, as Facebook suggests. In the meantime, we'll stick to playing around with the Oculus Quest 2