Neuralink, the startup founded by Elon Musk, is mainly engaged in finding a symbiotic connection between human brains and computers. The company recently posted a video on YouTube that appears to show a monkey controlling a cursor on a screen with his mind.
A 9-year-old macaque monkey, called Pager, which had a Neuralink implanted in its brain just six weeks before the video was shot, is shown playing the game.
It seems Pager was taught to play video games with a joystick by rewarding him with a banana smoothie for good performance, claims the narrator. The Neuralink device recorded information about which neurons were firing by following his hand movements and relating the link patterns. After some time, the joystick was disconnected, and it seems the monkey kept on playing the onscreen game of Pong with his mind.
Elon Musk tweeted about the play by saying that Neurolink products will enable a person with paralysis to open a smartphone faster than a normal person. He said in a follow-up tweet that in the future it will send signals from Neuralinks in the brain to Neuralinks in major body neural clusters, “thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again.”
The video without any accompanying scientific paper has set the scientific community wondering. Generally, the papers are peer-reviewed for authenticity and the given data checked.
Here it is presented as fait accompli, though it is feasible that such an event can occur with a brain implant.
Pong is a classic of brain-machine interfaces, and in 2006 Matthew Nagle, paralyzed, had a tiny sensor implanted in his brain and was able to control a computer, a television set, and a robot using only his thoughts.
In 2019 Musk said that a monkey with the implant had been able to control a computer, and in 2020 he made a presentation with three pigs.
He called the device placed in the brain as the Fitbit of the skull. Small electrodes in the brain connect to a wireless pod that sits behind the ear and can communicate with your phone or any smart device. Such a device will help people with brain or spinal injuries or congenital disabilities that make them unable to communicate.
The demonstration with the pigs was of a read device only with a display showing brain signals from the pig. The plan is to have both read and write capabilities in the future to help neurologically affected patients.
Musk said at the pig demonstration in 2020 that eventually, everyone is going to need such a device either through injury or when they gradually lose some functional faculties as they age.
Musk has maintained that the Neuralink device called Link could be revolutionary. “Don’t want to get too excited, but the potential is truly transformational for restoring brain & motor functions,” he had earlier tweeted.
In the future, the device will be capable of summoning your smart car and control video game interfaces, Musk had predicted at the demonstration.
The company is carrying out clinical trials on paraplegic patients to test the Link’s efficacy.
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