Facebook acquires CTRL Labs, a startup building mind control software

CTRL Labs, the technology start-up that is on its way to building a groundbreaking software that allows people to control a virtual avatar only by their thoughts, has found a new backer in the tech giant, Facebook. The San Francisco-based social media platform is set to pay the start-up between $500 million and $1 billion to acquire the New York start-up, people familiar with the deal revealed.

Before the highly anticipated investment from Facebook, the four-year-old start-up has already raised tens of millions in venture capital from other investors to fund its ambitious innovation. CTRL Labs puts its money into developing a bracelet to measure neuron activity in a person’s arm to determine movement that a person is thinking about. The technology is supposed to interpret the neural signals and translate them into computer codes even without physical movements.

Earlier this year, the New York start-up has scored $28 million in a funding round led by GV, Google’s venture capital arm. The funding was also backed by a number of investors from the tech industry, including Amazon’s Alexa Fund, Lux Capital, Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, Breyer Capital, and Fuel Capital.

The earlier round of funding went to the newly opened state-of-the-art research and development laboratory for the start-up to step up their research on the innovative neural software. CTRL Labs also said that the funding would be used to build and distribute Ctrl-labs’ developer kit — Ctrl-kit — which it unveiled at Slush in Helsinki, Finland in December.

“Like the developers and creators we hear from, we feel fundamentally dissatisfied with the pervading technologies of the last century,” the company said back then. “Our objective with Ctrl-kit is to give the industry’s most ambitious minds the tools they need to reimagine the relationship between humans and machines.”

The breakthrough that CTRL Labs promises is thought to be very crucial as a baseline technology for future innovations in the field of artificial technology and augmented reality. The technology could be the first generation software that could allow people to control objects with just using their minds and without the help of a button or a keyboard, CTRL Labs CEO Thomas Reardon explained in an industry conference late last year.

“Your hands could be in your pocket, behind you. It’s the intention [to move], not the movement” itself that controls the avatar, he added.

The San Francisco giant further explains its interest in neural technology and how the technology is supposed to work.

“The wristband will decode those [neural] signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand,” wrote Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of AR and virtual reality, in a post announcing the deal. “It captures your intention so you can share a photo with a friend using an imperceptible movement or just by, well, intending to.”

Facebook’s acquisition of CTRL Labs will most likely impact antitrust investigations

Amid reports of the pending acquisition, Facebook declined to comment regarding the price of the said deal. The Facebook acquisition comes in the midst of the controversial regulatory inquiry on how tech companies are violating antitrust regulations by acquiring smaller tech start-ups.

Because of the ongoing antitrust investigation against tech company, it is to be expected that the acquisition of CTRL Labs by Facebook will come with more intense scrutiny from regulators.

“CTRL-Labs and Facebook are not competitors. Facebook does not currently have or make this technology,” a Facebook spokeswoman said of the deal announced on Monday, adding that the company will work with regulators to secure any needed approvals. “CTRL-Labs’s technology is an innovative input that Facebook hopes will be used to significantly improve the upcoming Facebook AR/VR experiences a few years down the road to fundamentally improve the user experience.”

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