The idea of augmenting humans with machine intelligence for their own protection may be a new one, but research into how the brain records sensory input and uses it to drive physical responses is "an outlandishly difficult problem" that people have been working on since the 1960s, Pruszynski says.
There are two big challenges with the research: first, accurately recording the brain's neural activity to know which parts are being used to record outside stimuli; second, figuring out how the brain sends the resulting signals out to the peripheral nervous system, which allows a person to move an arm, leg or other body part.
"Trying to get accurate info out of the brain is very difficult," says Pruszynski.
Bradley Wyble, an associate professor of psychology at Penn State University who's studied how the brain turns visual stimuli into ideas, agrees.
Wyble took issue with Regina Dugan's prediction, laid out in a Facebook post, that the company will be building a system to demonstrate that humans can type at a rate of 100 words per minute using only their thoughts "over the next two years."
"That's extremely aggressive," for a such a brain-to-text system, says Wyble.
In a keynote speech at a Facebook conference in San Jose, CA, on April 19, Dugan spoke of the brain in terms usually reserved for computers, as she talked about how "speech is a compression algorithm."
Wyble disagrees. Although the brain is like a computer in that it can store and transmit information, Wyble says "We don't understand the input/output part...the brain has a lot of competing ideas and only some get shared with the outside world."
For example, the brain is very good at helping humans choose which visual stimuli to ignore, and which to act upon.
"Think of the difference between looking for your car keys and seeing a bear running through your house," Wyble explains.
In the first case, the brain filters out a large number of visual clues until we find our keys. In the second, the sight of the bear would cause an immediate physical response.
"People have been working on this for decades...and still don't know what algorithm the brain is using," Wyble says.