While other tech companies tend to keep their R&D under a blanket of secrecy, Facebook is opening its labs and showing the world how it’s developing its future augmented reality (AR) glasses. The company held the second in a series of its “Inside the Lab” media roundtables on Tuesday and introduced new technology that would enable users to control their AR glasses using their fingers. AR glasses project light onto the eyes and seem to overlay the real world with digital imagery. As you’re looking through the glasses at a statue, for instance, the glasses might display a label with helpful information right next to it. Many people in tech circles believe AR glasses, in some form, will eventually replace the smartphone as our go-to personal computing device. In this week’s roundtable, company executives, starting with chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer, showed off wrist wearables that detect the movement of the glasses wearer’s fingers. The wearable uses a technology called electromyography (EMG), which intercepts the electrical signals the brain uses to direct finger movements. It then translates the electrical pulses into digital commands that can control functions of the device functions. For example, if the user is looking directly at a big blue button within the AR display on their face, they might “push” the button by making a tapping motion with their index finger. [Photo: Facebook] It also might be possible to train the bracelet to interpret the electrical signals the brain sends to the fingers to hit specific keys on a (virtual) keyboard. [Photo: Facebook] The Facebook wrist wearable prototypes can also generate a tactile signal (like a buzz or knock or squeeze) to acknowledge that the wearable computer has received a command. Or it might give the user a tactile signal to prompt them to do some action. There are other ways to interact with AR glasses, including voice commands, or using some form of handheld device like a smartphone or a game controller. Facebook says voice commands might be subject to eavesdropping and could be a threat to privacy if they’re used in public. A handheld device, Facebook’s engineers believe, would only “put a layer of friction” between the user and the AR technology. “As we explored the possibilities, placing an input device at the wrist became the clear answer,” Facebook engineers wrote in a blog post Thursday. “The wrist is a traditional place to wear a watch, meaning it could reasonably fit into everyday life and social contexts,” they added.
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Facebook reveals new watch-like controllers for its future AR glasses