Watch a monkey with Elon Musk’s Neuralink implant play pong with its brain
Neuralink has shared a video of how they have managed to use their hardware to make a monkey play pong by only using its brain.
Elon Musk's company Neuralink has been working on controlling the brain with implants for a while now and has recently shared a new blog post along with a video that shows what they've been up to. Neuralink has shared a video of how they have managed to use their hardware to make a monkey play pong by only using its brain.
Neuralink demonstrates in the video how they have used their sensor hardware and the brain implant to record a baseline of activity from a macaque named Pager.
Pager was first made to play a game of pong on screen where it moved a token to different squares using a joystick. Then, using this baseline data, Neuralink used machine learning to anticipate where Pager was going to move the token physically. Eventually, machine learning managed to predict the moves accurately even before it was physically made.
Researchers then removed the paddle first and then the pong and ultimately managed to get to a point where Pager was no longer using hands, whether in the air or on a non-existent paddle, and was instead controlling the in-game action with just the mind via the Link hardware and embedded neural threads.
We saw Musk demonstrating the Link tech in August last year when pigs were used to show how Neuralink was able to read signals from the brain depending on different stimuli.
This latest demo with Pager gives more clarity about the direction Neuralink's tech is headed in terms of human applications. Neuralink has mentioned in the blog that the same tech can be used to help patients with paralysis control a cursor on a computer, for starters. This can also be applied to other paradigms like including touch controls on an iPhone and typing using a virtual keyboard, Neuralink explained.
A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2021
Musk has tweeted that he expects the initial version of Neuralink's product “to be able to allow someone with paralysis that prevents standard modes of phone interaction to use one faster than people using their thumbs for input”.
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
Musk also added that future iterations of Neuralink will be able to enable communication between Neuralinks embedded in different parts of a patient's body and help transmission between an in-brain node and neural pathways in legs, for example, making it “possible” for “paraplegics to walk again”.
Of course, these claims are very ambitious and bold and Neuralink does often cite a lot of existing research that “undergrids its existing demonstrations and near-term goals”. Musk's claims should be taken with a pinch of salt, like in most cases, and he's also mentioned that human trials should begin “hopefully later this year”. And it's been two years since he was been saying that.
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