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Analysing the ramifications of Facebook’s wrist devices

Facebook wrist devices

Let’s talk about the ramifications of Facebook’s research on wrist-based hand tracking. In case you missed it, Facebook unveiled some of its work on new hand gestures for both VR and AR devices, and it’s got my brain whirring. Some benefits of the work include: 

  • Accessibility for impaired people: As one example, a person born without a hand can control a virtual version because the wrist device tracks neural signals. The ramifications are immense, opening the doors for more people to access their tech. Only a good thing, from my perspective. 
  • Fast interactions: While typical hand tracking requires good cameras and lighting, with a slight lag, neural interactions can cut the delay. It is worth noting that the same benefits can come with haptic gloves as well. 
  • Better interactions for AR glasses: No-one wants to wave their hands in front of their face while traveling or commuting. Having a wrist device works simply with a future version of the specs. 

Tracking neural signals prompts privacy concerns, which Facebook Neuromotor Interfaces Director Thomas Reardon comments on: “Neural data like this is really quite personal and we treat this issue as part of our research set. The problem of how to deal with information that is this personal and engage in a way that is pro-human and on behalf of users. I will tell you that we are deeply committed to transparency as scientists, to engaging in the world of publishing and the world of public engagement, so that we can explain to people why we use this data, how we use it, and what kinds of user experiences are actually enabled by it.”

All of this is a long way from public release, but it’s interesting to see the company engineer its vision of spatial computing across multiple different approaches. It also reinforces my belief on the most important component of immersive devices: the control method. It acts as a gateway to all experiences, as a finicky substitute would ward interested users away. But get it right, and you have a new interaction device on the same level as the computer mouse for PCs.