Elon Musk’s neurotechnology start-up, Neuralink, is set to make a groundbreaking advancement in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). The company plans to implant brain chips in up to 11 individuals in 2024, with thousands of volunteers eager to participate. A recent study conducted by Foresight Factory reveals that 35% of consumers are open to the idea of having a chip implanted in their brains to establish a direct connection with computer systems.
Neuralink, established in 2016, focuses on developing implantable devices for the human brain. The company has already achieved successful chip implantations in mice, pigs, and monkeys. Their current research involves the creation of flexible threads, thinner than a human hair, that can be inserted into the brain using a large robot to monitor brain activity.
Elon Musk has made bold claims about the potential capabilities of Neuralink. These range from enabling “telepathic” communication to allowing individuals to control bionic limbs based on Tesla’s Optimus robot. Musk’s biographer, Ashlee Vance, described a surgical procedure where a surgeon removes part of the skull, and a robot intricately weaves electrodes and thin wires into the brain. Another component is placed behind the ear, with wires connecting directly to the brain.
The first human trial conducted by Neuralink will focus on individuals with quadriplegia caused by spinal cord injuries or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The goal is to enable participants to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.
Neuralink’s device consists of a chip that processes and transmits neural signals from brain implants to a unit located behind the ear. From there, the signals can be routed to devices such as computers and phones. The long-term vision for Neuralink is to restore neural activity within the body, thereby assisting individuals with spinal cord injuries in regaining movement. The company also aims to develop solutions for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Despite Neuralink’s groundbreaking efforts, it is not the only player in the field. Rival companies like Synchron are also working on brain implants, and numerous other firms are exploring various types of implants.
One such company is Blackrock Neurotech, which has successfully implanted brain computer interfaces in patients over the past 19 years. Their chips have assisted paralyzed individuals in creating art and playing Pong in laboratory settings. Blackrock Neurotech intends to develop a version of their technology for home use and has aspirations to address hearing and vision impairments.
Elon Musk envisions a future where man and machine merge through Neuralink’s technology. He has even pledged to install the brain chip in himself. Musk believes that the technology has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. He has also hinted at the possibility of streaming music directly into users’ brains and emphasized the importance of a seamless connection between biological and digital intelligence.
Neuralink’s upcoming human trials mark a significant milestone in the development of brain-computer interfaces, bringing us one step closer to a reality once confined to the realms of science fiction.