NEURALINK, the brain implant maker bankrolled by Elon Musk, has unveiled footage of a monkey apparently playing video games with its mind.
Released Friday, the three-minute clip appears to show an adult macaque controlling the paddles in a classic game of Pong using brain signals alone.
Brain implant firm Neuralink has released footage of a monkey playing Pong with its mindCredit: neuralink
It potentially marks a giant leap forward for the California company, which aims to have an implant ready for humans in the near future.
Founded in 2016, Neuralink is developing implantable brain chips that are inserted into regions of the mind that control movement.
The company says the technology will one day help people with paralysis to control smartphones and computers with their brain activity.
Eventually, Neuralink wants to provide its implants to people to boost their intelligence. The aim is to create a full brain interface within 25 years.
Scientists can interact with the monkey’s implant using an iPhoneCredit: Neuralink
The monkey’s brain activity is decoded using an algorithmCredit: neuralink
Musk has claimed that the technology will stop humans being outpaced by artificial intelligence, which he believes may one day turn against us.
Neuralink says it has already plugged its chips into the grey matter of rats and pigs, and now a nine-year-old macaque has gone under the knife.
According to the firm’s video, the monkey, named Pager, had brain-machine interface (BMI) chips placed in each side of his mind six weeks ago.
The primate has learned to interact with games on a computer to receive a banana smoothie delivered by a steel tube attached to the machine.
Neuralink microchip and wiring next to a human finger for scaleCredit: Neuralink
Scientists can interact with his implants using an iPhone, “just as you might pair your phone to a Bluetooth speaker”, the video’s narrator says.
They connect to the brain via 2,000 electrodes hooked to the animal’s motor cortex – the part of the mind that controls movement.
Data is fed back to a computer which “decodes” brain signals, allowing an algorithm to predict Pager’s hand movements before he makes them.
This, according to the video, means the monkey can move the cursor on a simple video game using his mind alone.
The monkey is also shown playing a second video gameCredit: neuralink
To demonstrate the technology, the video shows Pager playing a game in which he has to move a cursor to a constantly shifting orange square.
When the cursor reaches a square, the monkey is rewarded with a shot of banana smoothie. The square then moves to a different part of the screen.
After Pager plays the game using a joystick, the video shows the monkey appearing to play the same game with the joystick unplugged.
According to the narrator, the cursor is moving using signals decoded from the primate’s motor cortex in real-time.
Pager is a nine-year-old Macaque with Neuralink implants in each side of his brainCredit: neuralink
Later, Pager is shown playing Pong, said to be his “favourite video game”.
“As you can see, Pager is amazingly good at mind Pong,” the narrator says, adding that the monkey is playing “entirely of his own volition.”
Following the release of the video, Musk laid out a roadmap for the development of a Neuralink chip for humans.
“First Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” the Tesla and SpaceX boss tweeted.
Several US firms are working towards the creation of interfaces that link a computer to your brain to grant users super-intelligenceCredit: neuralink.com
“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.”
He added: “The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal.”
Musk recently claimed that Neuralink will have an early version of its brain implant ready by May 2021.
Speaking on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast last year, he said the device could one day fix “anything that is wrong with the brain”.
The implant is about the size of a watch faceCredit: AFP
Implants will be able to stream music directly into your brain and release hormones like serotonin on command, according to the billionaire.
Several firms worldwide are working towards the creation of interfaces that link a computer to your brain.
They promise to grant recipients the ability to control an app with their mind or track their stress hormone levels in real-time.
The technology also has military applications, allowing soldiers to command or communicate with swarms of drones using their thoughts.
Neuralink was founded by Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk
While brain chips could dramatically expand the scope of what humans are capable of, experts have raised a host of ethical and safety concerns.
Speaking to Zdnet last year, a cyber security buff warned that implants could be hijacked in order to “erase or disrupt” people’s skills or memories.
“It’s not only at the information level, it could also be the physical damage as well,” Dr Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, an expert at the Waterford Institute of Technology, said.
“Would [attacks] come in the form of just new information put into the brain?” he added.
“Or would it even go down to the level of damaging neurons that then leads to a rewiring process within the brain that then disrupts your thinking?”
To make the technology safe, engineers will have to incorporate security technologies used by computers and smartphones today.
That could mean anything from encrypting data to antivirus protection software to keep out prying cyber criminals.
Brain chips also raise ethical concerns regarding the creation of intelligence “upgrades” that are only accessible to the super-rich.
Who is Elon Musk?
Here’s what you need to know…
Controversial billionaire Elon Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1971.
As a 12-year-old child he taught himself computer programming and sold the code of a video game to a PC magazine for $500 (£300).
At 17, he moved to Canada to study, before gaining two degrees in physics and business at the University of Pennsylvania.
At the age of 24 he moved to California to start a Ph.D. in applied physics and material science at Stanford University – but left the programme after just two days to pursue other projects.
Now 49, he is the founder and CEO of SpaceX, co-founder, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, co-founder and chairman of SolarCity, co-chairman of Opan AI, co-founder of Zip2 and founder of X.com, which merged with PayPal.
He’s also working on a human brain chip project called Neuralink.
Musk’s stated aim is to reduce global warming and save humans from extinction by setting up a colony on Mars.
The billionaire inventor is also working on the world’s largest lithium-ion battery to store renewable energy.
In other news, recipients of the Neuralink implant will run the risk of being HACKED by online crooks, according to cyber security experts.
Musk has plans to make his Starlink satellites “invisible to the naked eye”.
And, the Telsa boss, Nasa and Tom Cruise want ‘to shoot first movie in space’ using SpaceX rockets.
What do you make of Neuralink? Let us know in the comments!
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