Elon Musk’s Neuralink hosted a ‘Show & Tell’ presentation at its Fremont, California, headquarters on November 30. The neuro-technology company is developing a brain-computer interface that is a coin-sized ‘Link’ chip with 1,024 electrode threads that are implanted in the motor-cortex (sensory area) of the brain to stimulate neurons.
During the presentation, Neuralink engineers discussed the technology’s development progress and showcased a monkey “typing telepathically” via a Link chip implanted in its brain. The monkey, named ‘Sake,’ could type by thinking of where to move the cursor on a virtual keyboard (video linked below). Sake typed the phrases: "welcome to show and tell" and "can i please have snacks." The monkey did not actually learn how to spell, instead, Neuralink teams taught Sake how to track the letters highlighted in yellow on the screen like a video game. The Link chip embedded in the monkey's skull registers the brain activity then sends a signal wirelessly to move the cursor around the computer screen. “We are confident someone who has no other interface to the outside world would be better to control their phone better than someone who has working hands," Musk said at the event. "Sake the monkey is moving the mouse cursor using just his mind."
"Contrary to what some think, we are extremely careful with animals. We always want the implant to be confirmatory, not exploratory. We do a huge amount of testing,” Musk assured. Neuralink is pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate the first human trial. Musk said the first brain-chip implant trial could happen in 2023. “Since our last Neuralink update, we have been on the difficult way from prototype to product. It's insanely difficult. We should be able to test our first Neuralink in a human probably in about 6 months,” he said. Neuralink’s primary objective is to develop a Link chip capable of helping paralyzed individuals. “As miraculous as that may sound, we are confident that it is possible to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a severed spinal cord,” said Musk. Neuralink is working “to enable someone who has almost no possibility to activate his or her muscles” move again, “We are confident we can bridge the connexion between the motor cortex to a Neuralink located in the spinal cord,” he said. Musk also shared that Neuralink will be capable of helping blind people see again “even if they have never seen before.” “The first applications we will be aiming for is human vision. Even if someone never had vision, like if they were born blind, we are confident that we can restore vision since the visual cortex is still there.”
“We are now confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans, so timing is a function of working through the FDA approval process,” wrote Musk via Twitter. "We've been working hard to be ready for our first human, and obviously we want to be extremely careful and certain that it will work well before putting a device in a human.”
Neuralink engineers also demonstrated how its highly advanced surgical robot inserts over 1,024 thin electrode threads into the brain. They showcased the technology by using a gelatinous brain model. "It’s capable of maneuvering these tiny threads that are only on the order of a few red blood cells wide and inserting them reliably into a moving grain while avoiding vasculature,” said Neuralink’s vice president of implant DJ Seo. “It's quite good at doing this reliably.” It took the robot approximately 15 minutes to implant 64 threads into the brain model. Ultimately, Neuralink aims to develop a surgical robot that can rapidly insert electrode threads into the brain to perform operations as fast and affordable as LASIK laser eye procedures. The company said they were working on a next-generation Link chip that will have 4,098 channels. Engineers explained highly technical details about how the Neuralink brain-computer interface implant works, watch the full 3-hour presentation in the video linked below. “My most important message tonight is: Come work with Us! If you have expertise in creating advanced devices like watches and computers, your capabilities will certainly be very important to us,” said Musk. For more information visit Neuralink.com.
VIDEO: Neuralink Show & Tell Event - Fall 2022
Featured Image Source: Neuralink Broadcast
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Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.