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Facebook reveals wrist-based AR wearable that can sense your intentions

Facebook Reality Labs has revealed a prototype wrist-worn input device, designed to work in tandem with a pair of AR glasses, with subtle hand gestures executing digital commands.

The concept, currently in the research prototype stage, is designed to capture the electrical motor nerve signals that travel through the wrist on the way to the hand.

Facebook says the electromyography (EMG) tech can compute millimetre accurate finger movement, meaning gestures can be extremely slight and effortless. “Ultimately, it may even be possible to sense just the intention to move a finger,” Facebook says in a Newsroom blog post on Thursday.

If the tech is realised, this will enable the signals – which your brain sends to your fingers asking them to move – to register the input; even if you do not act upon those thoughts. It’s about decoding the signals at the wrist and “translating them to digital commands for the your device,” Facebook says.

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“What we’re trying to do with neural interfaces is to let you control the machine directly, using the output of the peripheral nervous system — specifically the nerves outside the brain that animate your hand and finger muscles,” says FRL Director of Neuromotor Interfaces Thomas Reardon.

The tech appears to be quite early stage right now, with just a couple of gestures working, like clicking fingers instead of using a wake word, or using a pinch and release gesture that’s akin to tapping a button on a touchscreen.

However, Facebook says this is only the beginning for the tech, with richer controls that’ll enable users to control virtual objects from longer distances, type on a virtual keyboard, fire a virtual bow and arrow and much more. While wearing the AR glasses, users could conceivably fire the arrow at a target in the distance, for instance.

“With wrist-based haptics, we’re able to approximate the sensation of pulling back the string of a bow in order to give you confidence that you’re performing the action correctly,” Facebook says in a tech blog post.

The company did not offer a roadmap for a product release for the wrist-based input device, or the AR headset it would work in tandem with.

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