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Facebook reveals plan to let users control augmented reality with their thoughts

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Facebook is researching how to take minute nerve movements in users’ arms and turn them into gesture controls for gadgets. The idea announced Thursday would help the social networking giant launch augmented reality (AR) glasses, which would rely on new ways to control computers and interact with the virtual world.

Picture this: Your home assistant asks if you’d like to play your favorite podcast, and a flick of your fingers in the air lets you select play. Or, you’re wearing AR glasses that display images over the real world, and you scroll through your text messages in midair while your smartphone stays in your pocket.

Those are the scenarios Facebook has in mind if it were ever to deploy a muscle-sensing wristlet.

“We’re developing natural, intuitive ways to interact with always-available AR glasses because we believe this will transform the way we connect with people near and far,” Facebook said in a blog post. But to launch such a product, the social media behemoth would also need access to a new type of data: Your thinking.

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Facebook says the wristband product would rely on a “neural interface” that adapts to you and your environment.

In demonstration videos, the prototype looks like a thick, black iPod strapped around the wrist. In theory, sensors on the device would be able to pick up what hand movements you intend to make through a technique for recording nerve signals known as electromyography, or EMG.

“If you send a control to your muscle saying ‘I want to move my finger,’ it starts in your brain. It goes down your spine through motor-neurons, and this is an electrical signal. So you should be able to grab that electrical signal on the muscle and say, ‘Oh, OK. The user wants to move the finger,’ ” says Nathalie Gayraud, a research scientist at Facebook Reality Labs, in a video.

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Rolling out nerve sensing gadgets would enable Facebook to reinvent the computer “click.” So instead of using a mouse or tapping on your phone, you’d think about moving a finger to trigger a reaction in AR.

It’s too soon to tell whether the device will ever come to market. Facebook says that the research is in the early phases, and that any type of consumer product would be years away. It is not the first company to imagine a world where futuristic glasses enhance the real-world with digitized imagery.

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Google Glass, a $1,500 pair of spectacles, flopped with consumers in 2014. The search conglomerate gave them a facelift and remarketed them for businesses. Snap also tried with its Spectacles for Snapchat, a $150 pair of snazzy glasses equipped with cameras, audio and microphones. Those also did not make much of a mark.

Facebook is going after your wrist because that’s where people are used to donning wearables. People have used Fitbits for over a decade and Apple Watches for half as long. Your wrist is also close to your hands, which people typically use to control devices.

“It’s located right next to the primary instruments you use to interact with the world — your hands. This proximity would allow us to bring the rich control capabilities of your hands into AR, enabling intuitive, powerful and satisfying interaction,” Facebook says.

The Mark Zuckerberg-led company insists that data privacy is a top concern, as it should be with a device that takes personalization to a whole new level. Facebook notes that information would be stored locally on the device rather than sent into a cloud. The only information meant to be collected is the intent for you to move your hand, Facebook says.

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The development comes two years after the social media company bought CTRL-Labs, a startup developing a wristband capable of turning brain impulses into computer input. The acquisition was reportedly worth between $500 million and $1 billion. The firm was absorbed by Facebook’s Reality Labs, which develops Oculus VR headsets.

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Controlling devices through thoughts has been shown to work. BrainCo developed a headband with sensors that lets people move items with their mind. The company later developed robotic limbs that detect and react to muscle signals.

Facebook’s research news is part of a trio of announcements related to the company’s push into immersive technologies.

Last week, it said it’s working on a “stylish” pair of glasses to replace a computer or smartphone. Its next such announcement will come this year and has something to do with an all-day wearable, “soft robotics” and haptic gloves, Facebook says.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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