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The future is here, Facebook is building brain-computer interfaces

(TECH NEWS) Facebook has a team of engineers studying and working on ways to make brain-computer interfaces a thing.

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Text with your mind

It’s finally here! The day I’ve been waiting for after a decade of reading dystopian fiction—mind to text messaging. Well, at least the first steps to getting there.

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On Wednesday, Facebook announced at F8 they have a team of 60 engineers building a brain-computer interface.

Remote control brain

This would theoretically let you control augmented and virtual reality with your mind. No typing, no screen, no controller.

It’s “direct brain interface,” which uses optical imaging to scan your brain, detecting internal speech.

The interface would scan your brain hundreds of times per second, translating thoughts to text.

Regina Dugan, Facebook’s R&D division Building 8 head, said the goal is to reach a typing speed of 100 words per minute. This is five times faster than how long it takes to type on a phone. Oh and guess what? No surgical implants required.

Building 8

Building 8’s project began six months ago, and they are now working with several universities. John Hopkins Medicine and John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are all involved in the project so far.

The researchers specialize in machine learning, decoding speech and language with optical neuroimaging systems.

Their technologies utilize advanced spatial resolution and neural prosthetics to interpret brain signals.

Add it to the list of hesitations about cyborgs

In all my excitement, I failed to consider that this is some people’s futuristic robot nightmare. Don’t worry, Facebook figured you would have some doubts. They assured TechCrunch that the technology won’t decode any random thought.

You have to decide to send the thought by sending it to the speech center of your brain in order to share.

Reassured? No, it still sounds kind of sketchy I suppose. Well, how about a way for humans to hear through skin? Building 8 is also working on prototypes that allow your skin to mimic hearing. The technology lets people hear through their skin by using a system that simulates the cochlea in your ear.

Delightfully vague

If you’re interested, Facebook is looking to hire a Brain-Computer Interface Engineer. Until recently, Building 8’s purpose was kind of secret. As in, no one really knew what they were doing and then some job listings showed up regarding machine learning and neuroimaging jobs.

This is all very secret lair sci-fi villain behavior, but I’m down.

Sure, this opens up some horrifying implications about our future as robo-human hybrid cyborgs. I don’t have faith in Facebook to execute this in a way that isn’t unsettling. But really, texting would be so much easier if we didn’t have to type with our thumbs.

Plus, developing these technologies would be a huge breakthrough for anyone currently unable to communicate through mainstream means.

We’re already in a world where implanted sensors allow paralyzed individuals to type with their minds. New research into brain-computer interface could mean this is possible without surgical implants.

Sci-fi in real life

Okay fine, I’ll admit it is a bit freaky. Ten years ago, Facebook hardly seemed likely to harbor in a sci-fi revolution. Now they’re at the forefront of dozens of innovative projects. Will these products have a sinister impact on our lives? Probably. But just like everything else Facebook does, we’ll complain for a while then get used to it.

#MindToText

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Tech News

How to buy Internet of Things gifts this year with security in mind

(TECHNOLOGY) Internet of Things devices are neat, but they also pose a significant security risk if not properly implemented. Here’s how to buy IoT gifts that won’t ruin your friend’s Xbox Live.

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As smart technology becomes more and more relevant, the issue of cybersecurity increases in pertinence as well. If you plan on picking up smart home (Internet of Things) gifts for your family and friends this year, Next Advisor offers a few security tips to keep in mind:

Firstly, the difference between “always on” items and selectively on appliances is huge, as smart home “always on” items pose a much more significant security risk than a device that can be disabled with the press of a button. Things like smart lights, thermostats, speakers, and so on—while popular—are best left to your recipient’s discretion.

This is because “always on” (also known as “Internet of Things”, or IoT) devices are often ill-suited to the degree of connectivity that they must sustain. Due to security shortcuts or weak coding, it’s relatively easy for an attacker to use your Internet-connected refrigerator or thermostat to take down your whole network. As such, traditional devices that can be enabled and disabled at will have a distinct security edge in this area.

When in doubt, go the gift card route; that way, your intended recipient will be able to purchase whatever smart item they want without you having to worry about compromising their safety.

If you do decide to buy Internet of Things gifts this year, it’s important to invest in strong, secure options. The easiest way to ensure that the device that you’re buying is sufficient is by looking at the manufacturer: was the device produced by Google, Intel, Apple, or another household tech name, or are you considering a company that you’ve never heard of?

A less security-based issue lies in the quality of the products, as third-party devices tend to fail faster and achieve less support than ones from large tech companies. When in doubt, go with the devil you know.

The other main thing to keep in mind is the face security of the item itself.

If the IoT item has a password and regular update support, it’s a much more secure item than any device lacking either of those features (to say nothing of both). Make sure that you know the answers to these questions before investing in any IoT device this holiday season, or just avoid them altogether.

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Tech News

Chatbot recruits qualified candidates, schedules interviews

(TECH NEWS) No chatbot can replace humans, but like this one, there is great potential to streamline paper pushing.

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When I was younger, the coolest technology at the time was AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Us teens and tweens would sit at our desk tops for hours, having pointless conversations with the same people we had seen all day long at school.

Every once in a while, the stars would un-align and there would be no buddies to talk to. This is when we would get desperate and strike up a conversation with SmarterChild, an AIM chatbot.

For us millennials, this was our first introduction to a chatbot, which is now a concept that has taken on a (virtual) life of its own. They now exist on many different websites, particularly ones with customer service, and are designed to have, basically, all of the answers.

Now as we get ready to jump into 2018, we see that this technology has advanced enough to the point where there are chatbots that serve as pre-recruiting tools for employers. One of these chatbots can be found on Applyr.

“Applyr is designed to be the most human recruitment tool. Our recruiter chatbots ‘sit’ on a company’s careers page and engage with, pre-select, and schedule interviews with candidates,” according to developers.

“This represents a radical improvement in the candidate experience, whilst saving the hiring company and the recruiter huge amounts of time. The more interactions Applyr chatbots engage in, the more our platform learns from the data it measures. Which further serves to improve recruiting processes.”

These recruiter chatbots are designed to help employers weed through candidates without consuming their precious time. The bots are customizable and scalable solution to your recruitment overload. Applyr states that they bring the power of Artificial Intelligence to the top of your recruitment funnel.

It is a fully comprehensive solution for global recruitment teams that includes: ATS integration, low-risk and GDPR compliance, security and confidentiality, international and multilingual capabilities, simple integration, and equal opportunities.

Applyr chatbots find qualified candidates through use of the AI-powered software. It then auto schedules the first interview and provides detailed analytics.

This way, more time can be spent on the interview itself and less time on arranging it. Applyr is no replacement for a human, but it can certainly speed up the process of getting to the best candidate.

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Tech News

The new best time of day to post on Facebook

(TECHNOLOGY) There has long been a “universal” sweet spot for when to post on Facebook, so what is it now?

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The best time to post on Facebook is a hotly contested topic, with some experts claiming to have the end-all-be-all answer while others admit that it isn’t an exact science.

While the best time to post for your demographic will ultimately depend on that demographic’s habits, regional location, and more, AI machine learning may ultimately provide the answer that you’ve been looking for.

To assume that there’s a universal “best time” to post on Facebook is a bit contrived, given the dynamic nature of people and their various nuances; however, there is almost certainly a best time for you to post to your followers. This time will depend on a myriad of different factors, which is why you shouldn’t have to calculate it yourself.

There are plenty of social media analysis tools available, one of the popular options is Socialbakers which offers a comprehensive suite that you can try for 14 days to see if it even works for you. The idea is that the suite will analyze your posts’ traffic, giving you a day-by-day report on when is the best time for you to post to your audience.

This dynamic approach allows you to target specifically the most active section of your audience without having to guess or account for outliers (e.g., holidays) by giving you an exact (often down to the minute) time at which your posts should go out for your selected day. The suite also learns as it is used, meaning that your posting hours will only improve in accuracy with time.

While experts are still throwing out best posting time estimates like between 1:00 and 4:00 on weekdays, the fact remains that the optimal posting solution for you most likely doesn’t always fall during this vanilla time frame—and even if it does, the exact time will always net more views and engagement than tossing a post into the void of the Internet during a three-hour window.

The bottom line is this: your social media game may be fine, but knowing the exact time of day on which to post – a luxury afforded only by an AI suite – is the only way to post reliably during your audience’s sweet spot.

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