Neuralink aims to connect brains and computers. It is Elon Musk’s latest project and we know less about it. After several years of tests with mice, pigs and samples of various prototypes, they are now finally showing what is the first demonstration of Neuralink’s supposed capabilities applied to “intelligent” beings.
In the presentation videos, Neuralink shows a monkey playing Pong. Initially the primate is found using a joystick but later, according to the narration, the game moves solely wirelessly, through the animal’s mental reactions.
As Neuralink explains on its website, the macaque, named ‘Pager’, moves the cursor on a computer screen using its mind, thanks to the 1,024 electrodes contained in the N1 Link device.
“We implanted the N1 Link in the hand and arm areas of the motor cortex, the part of the brain involved in planning and executing movements. We placed Links bilaterally: one in the left motor cortex (which controls movements on the right side of the body) and one in the right motor cortex (which controls the left side of the body),” the company describes.
Neuralink states that this has taken decades of research to achieve and that its mission is “to build a safe and effective direct neural interface (BMI) system that is wireless and fully implantable, that users can operate on their own and take with them wherever they go”.
Coinciding with the demonstration, Elon Musk has posted several of his popular tweets. In them, he describes Neuralink’s goals, stating that “the first Neuralink product will allow someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using their thumbs…. Later versions will be able to divert signals from Neuralinks in the brain to Neuralinks in clusters of bodily sensory/motor neurons, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again.”
Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2021
The use of Pong for the demonstration is quite common in brain experiments, although it is strange that the animal is presented playing almost as if it were a commercial video, when the usual practice in this type of research is to present the video as a complement to a study or analysis.
Following the video it is difficult to appreciate anything beyond what Neuralink assures. It does seem feasible that the brain can move the course or even play Pong. A type of project, brain-computer interfaces, that will grow in popularity over the next few years. At least that is what is derived from initiatives such as Neuralink’s or Facebook itself, which recently showed its bracelet for clicking with the mind.