Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company, Neuralink, announced a “Series C funding round of $205 million, led by Vy Capital, with participation from Google Ventures, DFJ Growth, Valor Equity Partners, Craft Ventures, Founders Fund, and Gigafund.”
The company has worked for the last 4 years to develop an advanced brain-machine interface (BMI) that would be capable of helping to solve a wide variety of brain related illnesses. “The initial goal of our technology will be to help people with paralysis to regain independence through the control of computers and mobile devices,” the company states, “Our devices are designed to give people the ability to communicate more easily via text or speech synthesis, to follow their curiosity on the web, or to express their creativity through photography, art, or writing apps.”
The BMI is a tiny chip called ‘N1 Link’ that features over 1,024 electrode threads that are implanted in the sensory areas of the brain where each thread can stimulate neurons. “The Link is a starting point for a new kind of brain interface. As our technology develops, we will be able to increase the channels of communication with the brain, accessing more brain areas and new kinds of neural information,” Neuralink says, “This technology has the potential to treat a wide range of neurological disorders, to restore sensory and movement function, and eventually to expand how we interact with each other, with the world, and with ourselves.” Musk has said on several occasions that long-term they aim to develop a BMI capable of connecting humans to artificial intelligence.
The group that contributed to Neuralink’s latest funding round include: the Co-Founder of ARCH Venture Partners Robert Nelson, Investor Blake Byers of Byers Capital, Chairman of YC Group and CEO of OpenAI Sam Altman, the Co-founder of Paradigm and Coinbase Free Ehrsam, and Ken Howery who is Co-Founder of PayPal and Founders Fund. “The funds from the round will be used to take Neuralink’s first product to market and accelerate the research and development of future products,” the company stated on July 29.
Neuralink has not initiated human trials yet. Medical engineers have only tested the N1 Link chip inside animals' brains, including mice, pigs, and even a macaque monkey. The N1 Link chip was implanted inside the monkey’s motor-cortex, the sensory area of brain that coordinates hand an arm movements, to play a video game 'telepathically'. The monkey, named Pager, was able to play a Pong game wirelessly with its thoughts, without using a controller, while it drank a banana smoothie through a straw under the game computer screen (as seen in the video below).
Neuralink also announced job openings on Thursday, it seeks to hire a wide variety of engineers. “If you’re an awesome SW eng [software engineer] come join us! Your first task will be to enable telepathy. We’re creating our first human app to allow a paralyzed person to regain their digital freedom by telepathically controlling their phone/computer in an effortless way,” the company wrote via Twitter. “We're scaling our first implant product for clinical trials and creating the next-generation implant that is >10x number of channels and computational capabilities - all in the same footprint! We are looking for talented EEs [electrical engineers] and MEs [mechanical engineers].”
“Our electrodes are *way* too tiny for a surgeon to manipulate and we must delicately navigate around blood vessels on a moving brain, so a precision robot is essential to our operation! We’re looking for stellar EE’s and ME’s to work on our next-gen [generation] robots,” Neuralink said. “We’re more vertically integrated than you'd think bc [because] there's often no vendor capable of completing our task. We also iterate more quickly with more in house. This makes having excellent manufacturing and equipment engineers critical.” The company is based in Fremont, California, and is planning to expand to Austin, Texas. You can find the job applications in the Tweets linked below.
We’re using this funding to accelerate our efforts to safely bring this technology to the world. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can help people in need who could benefit from a Neuralink device.— Neuralink (@neuralink) July 29, 2021
Here are some of the skills we’re looking for to accelerate this mission:
We're scaling our first implant product for clinical trials and creating the next-generation implant that is >10x number of channels and computational capabilities - all in the same footprint! We are looking for talented EEs and MEshttps://t.co/kag7uMhF8phttps://t.co/FyJrzkXpRp— Neuralink (@neuralink) July 29, 2021
We’re more vertically integrated than you'd think bc there's often no vendor capable of completing our task. We also iterate more quickly with more in house. This makes having excellent manufacturing and equipment engineers criticalhttps://t.co/VmYRniY6jrhttps://t.co/HVQjuvOnhB— Neuralink (@neuralink) July 29, 2021
Good summary— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 29, 2020
Featured Image Source: Neuralink
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Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.