Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) on Monday announced the acquisition of CTRL-labs, a New York-based neural interface startup that makes a wrist-worn device capable of allowing humans to control computers using their brains.
The size of the deal, which Bloomberg reports is worth between $500 million and $1 billion, is the biggest acquisition the world’s largest social network has made since it paid $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR in 2014, a startup that makes virtual reality video game headsets.
With this substantial acquisition, Facebook is placing a big bet on the potential of virtual reality (VR) and may decide to pair the technology with augmented reality (AR) glasses and other VR projects.
Facebook’s Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who serves as VP of the company’s AR and VR divisions, made the announcement on his personal FB page, saying the closely held four-year-old CTRL-Labs, which was co-founded by Internet Explorer creator and computational neuroscientist Thomas Reardon, will be joining Facebook Reality Labs team.
The vision for CTLR-labs’ technology, which focuses specifically on ways to access, read and write from the brain, is to develop new ways of interacting with machines.
“Here’s how it’ll work: You have neurons in your spinal cord that send electrical signals to your hand muscles telling them to move in specific ways such as to click a mouse or press a button,” Bosworth wrote. “The wristband will decode those signals and translate them into a digital signal your device can understand, empowering you with control over your digital life.”
CTLR-labs claims it has advanced its technology to the point where you won’t have to physically move your arm to move the arm on the screen. It’s the intention to physically moving your arm, not the physical movement, that will move the arm.
The deal comes at a challenging time for Facebook, which is under two separate U.S. antitrust investigations, reportedly looking into the social network’s impact on advertising prices, data and consumer privacy and whether facilitated its acquisitions, Instagram and WhatsApp ; $1 billion and $19 billion, respectively, in an effort to stifle competition.
Stock Price Action
Facebook pre-market shares were trading up by less than a point, or 0.41 percent, at $187.58 at the time of publication Tuesday.