Featured Image Source: Neuralink
Elon Musk demonstrated a working Neuralink brain-machine interface device implanted on a pig during a live broadcast today, video below. He said the purpose of the presentation was to recruit employees that would like to help develop the system. – “We’re not trying to raise money or do anything else, but the main purpose is to convince great people to come work at Neuralink, and help us bring the product to fruition; make it affordable and reliable and such that anyone who wants one can have one,” he said. Neuralink aims to solve brain-related issues with the brain chip called ‘Link’. Musk said the device could help solve memory loss, strokes, addiction, depression, anxiety, even monitor a users’ health to warn if they are about to have a heart attack. The interface could also help return mobility to paralyzed individuals through artificial limbs. The user would be able to move prosthetics with their thoughts via the Link brain-machine interface.
Ultimately, Musk's vision for Neuralink is for humans to merge with Artificial Intelligence (AI) – “Such that the future of the world is controlled by the combined will of the people of Earth … I think that that’s obviously gonna’ be the future that we want,” he stated tonight.
The Neuralink device is currently in its initial phase of development. The design has changed since it was unveiled in 2019. Before, the device would sit behind a user’s ear and it was visible, now the design looks like a small coin, that will be placed above the skull. It’s “like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Musk said a couple of times during the presentation, adding that Neuralink aims to connect humans to the device using Bluetooth to pair with an app on a cell phone.
The Link chip features 1,024 tiny electrode threads that are threaded by a surgical robot inside the brain to stimulate neurons. “For the initial device, it’s read/write in every channel with about 1024 channels, all-day battery life that recharges overnight and has quite a long-range, so you can have the range being to your phone,” Musk said. “I should say that’s kind of an important thing, because this would connect to your phone, and so the application would be on your phone, and the Link communicating, by essentially Bluetooth low energy to the device in your head.” The Link device will be capable of inductive charging (wirelessly).
Neuralink will be "quite expensive" initially, but Musk hopes to offer an affordable Link device to somewhere in the 'thousand-dollar' range. He said Neuralink could feature the capability to summon your Tesla car with a thought, and play video games, including “Starcraft”, he joked.
Musk also shared that in the future, individuals with the Link implant could be able to “save and replay memories. […] This is obviously sounding increasingly like a black mirror episode, but well, I guess they’re pretty good at predicting,” he said. “You could potentially download [memories] into a robot body.”
During the presentation, he revealed engineers and doctors at Neuralink implanted brain chips on pigs. A pig named Gertrude, had a working 'Link' device implanted into its brain that is actively recording signals from its sensory area in the brain that is linked to the nerves on her snout. Musk said Gertrude has been doing well with the implant for two months. To demonstrate how the Link chip works, caregivers would offer Gertrude food, as she smelled and looked for food, a screen displayed a visual array of dots and played a sound whenever the Link detected that Gertrude made contact to something with her snout.
There were also two other pigs, one without the Neuralink device and another that had previously a chip implanted but removed, to showcase how the chip did not affect any of the pigs’ overall health. The company assured their priority is maintaining the animals happy and healthy.
Musk stated Neuralink received a Breakthrough Device designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July, and that they are “preparing for first human implantation soon, pending required approvals and further safety testing.” The first clinical trial will implant the Link device on paralyzed individuals resulting from cervical spinal cord injury. Neuralink will treat a “small number” in order to assess the technology.
WATCH THE FULL NEURALINK PRESENTATION