Elon Musk’s mysterious startup, Neuralink, has finally come out on Tuesday night, revealing his progress in creating a wireless implantable device that will be able to read the mind. The goal of the startup is to start implanting this device in subjects suffering from paralysis, allowing them to control smartphones and computers with their mind.
Musk’s long-term goal is to achieve “symbiosis with artificial intelligence”, which Musk perceives as an existential threat to humanity if it goes unchecked. Now, the perfect harmony so much hoped for by Musk is becoming reality: a futuristic reality that looks like science fiction.
In the event held on 16th July, Elon Musk’s Neuralink presented the brain-computer interface that will allow humans to control PC and smartphones with the mind.
Max Hodak, Neuralink’s president, revealed that a special chip will be implanted thanks to an 8 mm hole in the skull. This chip will be connected to the brain with “threads” thinner than a human hair, equipped with electrodes, which will be able to detect neuronal activity.
To inject these particular threads into the brain, the startup has developed an advanced robot, equipped with a 24-micron needle, which can insert six wires (ie, 192 electrodes) in a minute, avoiding blood vessels and reducing the risk margin for brain function to a minimum. According to a white paper by Elon Musk and Neuralink, these threads, very thin, flexible and less likely to damage the brain than the materials currently used by science, can transfer more data and include up to 3,072 electrodes per array, distributed on 96 wires.
The chip, called “sensor N1”, designed to be inserted inside the brain and transmit data via a wireless connection to a wearable device to be placed behind the ear, will allow the reading of neuronal peaks. Overall, the procedure involves the insertion of 3-4 chips: three in the motor areas of the brain and one in the area, which deals with receiving the sensory stimuli of touch.
Neuralink plans to obtain FDA approval for a human clinical trial as early as 2020, on a version of its device that is “intended only for patients with serious unresolved medical illnesses,” said Neuralink chief neurosurgeon Dr. Matthew McDougall. The first clinical trial will involve patients with complete paralysis and will involve the installation of four Neuralink implants in the patients’ brains. The company has so far tested its devices only on animals: after experimenting with mice, the company collaborated with scientists from the University of California to conduct experiments on monkeys.
A monkey was able to control the computer with its brain
~Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Neuralink expressing all his enthusiasm by describing Neuralink's experiments with monkeys
The Neuralink device would represent a significant improvement in the current state of the art with several electrodes interfacing with the brain multiplied up to 1,000 times compared to the current FDA-approved device used for Parkinson’s patients. Everything concerning Elon Musk is always amazing, now we just have to wait impatiently for the next updates: the future is coming!