Assistant Professor Jacob George

Electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Jacob George was recently awarded a $150,000 grant from Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) to explore inclusive neural interfaces as a way of controlling augmented and virtual reality systems. The award is part of FRL’s efforts to advance responsible innovation practices by supporting innovative ideas that promote ethical developments in neurotechnology. George’s lab is one of six to receive funding out of 50 applicants.  

George’s lab will develop a neural data-collection process that provides unbiased and generalizable performance across different control algorithms. Validation will be conducted among individuals with common neuromuscular disorders to ensure that the technology is accessible to those with varying physical ability levels.  

“I’m excited about this partnership because it will allow us to move outside the scope of just research and develop this work for real-world applications,” George said. “It provides a realistic opportunity for this interface to become widespread, commercially used technology.” 

A neural interface functions by acquiring signals from the brain that are translated into commands carried out by a device placed on the inside or outside of the body. They demonstrate exciting potential for rehabilitation, gaming, robotics and more. At the same time, they raise concerns regarding the privacy and protection of sensitive neural data collected from the brain and body.  

George’s lab will proactively address privacy at all stages of the project to ensure that the protection of personal data is automatically integrated into the technology. Users will be placed in direct control of the data-collection process and empowered to choose the amount and type of data they share. This approach will also promote inclusivity by allowing people, particularly those with disabilities, to focus on the data collection that is important to them. 

The two-year project will allow George to fund new students in his lab, where they will work with state-of-the-art equipment and gain hands-on experience in neurorobotics. To find out more about George’s work and to explore research opportunities, visit the Neurorobotics Lab.