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Facebook Acquires Brain Computing CRTL-Labs

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Facebook has announced its plans to buy CTRL-labs, a NY-based startup building an armband that translates movement and the wearer’s neural impulses into digital input signals. Through a post on his page,  Facebook’s head of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality said, “It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to.”

We spend a lot of time trying to get our technology to do what we want rather than enjoying the people around us. We…

Posted by Andrew Bosworth (Boz) on Monday, September 23, 2019

 

The CTRL – Labs raised $67 million according to Crunchbase and also $28 million in a February funding round led by GV, formerly Google Ventures. Facebook has however not brought to light the amount of money paid in order to acquire the startup but it is reportedly to be worth around $1 billion – the most substantial acquisition Facebook has made in the last half decade, since it paid $2 billion to acquire virtual reality company Oculus VR in 2014. Current investors at the CTRL – Labs include: GV, Lux Capital, Amazon’s Alexa Fund, Spark Capital and Founders Fund, among others.

The closely held four-year-old startup 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.

CTRL-labs’ acquisition brings more IP and talent under Facebook’s wings as competitors like Microsoft and Apple continue to build out augmented reality products.

There is plenty of overlap between many of the technologies that Oculus is building for Facebook’s virtual reality products, like the Quest and Rift S, but CTRL-Labs’ tech can help the company build input devices that are less bulky, less conspicuous and more robust.

Thomas Reardon, the CTRL-Labs’ CEO and co-founder is a veteran technologist who has won several awards including founding the team at Microsoft that built Internet Explorer will be joining Facebook, while the CTRL-Labs’ employees will have the option to do the same.

CTRL-labs’ technology isn’t focused on text-entry as much as it is muscle movement, and hand movements specifically. The startup’s progress was most recently distilled in a developer kit that paired multiple types of sensors together to accurately determine the wearer’s hand position.

An alternative to camera-based or glove-based hand-tracking solutions is offered to wrist-worn device by the developers.

The acquisition will bring the startup into the company’s Facebook Reality Labs Division and will be working more closely with technology that could one day be productive

Facebook has been talking a lot about working on a non-invasive brain input device that can make things like text entry possible just by simply thinking.

The company’s progress on that project appears to be taking the form of university research that they have funded.

Andrew Bosworth wrote in a post saying, “We know there are more natural, intuitive ways to interact with devices and technology. And we want to build them.”

“It’s why we’ve agreed to acquire CTRL-labs. They will be joining our Facebook Reality Labs team where we hope to build this kind of technology, at scale, and get it into consumer products faster,” he added.

This acquisition also brings to Facebook the armband patents of North (formerly Thalmic Labs). CTRL-labs purchased the patents related to the startup’s defunct Myo armband earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.

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