For the past decades, we’ve seen a consistent modern revolution in the technology we use today. Whether that’s from technology capable enough to land us on the moon to the technology that powers high-end electric cars, technology is always developing at a fast pace. Although there are still some areas where technology hasn’t gone mainstream yet, Elon Musk’s newest venture aims to link your brain to technology and he’s calling it: Neuralink.
Neuralink is a chip with tiny threads (way smaller than a hair) that will have direct access to your brain to allow new Artificial Intelligence capabilities. Upon connection, it’ll lead to the development of brain-computer interfaces. It’s a little difficult to explain without being very technical, but the goal is to take raw input from neural signals, track and stimulate spikes or action potentials (electrical impulses) in real-time, and output into useful abilities.
For first patients they are looking to implant four sensors, they could do up to 10 sensors per head, that connect wirelessly through the skin to a wearable device called “the link,” which contains a Bluetooth radio and a battery that will be controlled through an iPhone app that will teach the patient how to use N1 and how to accomplish a wanted movement.
This could potentially be a new era for brain surgery as we know it, the similarities to the LASIK procedure make it less invasive, meaning no scars or terrible pain, in less time – the average insertion time will be 45 min. The capabilities for Neuralink go beyond that, the company’s focus is to help people with brain injuries that caused them to lose voluntary movement, as well as, people who suffered a spinal cord injury and lost voluntary movement and were left paralyzed.
It is uncertain if the Neuralink company will go public given the nature of the project. Prototypes are being developed, but for this to go mainstream will require large amounts of work. The dangerous reality of having a piece of anything implanted into your brain will require a significant amount of support from the FDA, as having electrodes interacting with your brain could cause neurological damage. So the question now is: will it happen?
To date testing has been done on monkeys and rats; however, human testing is set to begin before the end of the year 2020, which for something that’s still early in development, seems to be a little premature and probably one of the most ambitious and risky things to accomplish in Elon Musk’s plan for the future of brain-meets-AI.
In a live stream presentation on YouTube back in July, Musk unveiled version one of Neuralink and said that testing on humans will begin sooner than we can expect.
“We hope to have this, aspirationally, in a human patient before the end of next year, so this is not far,” Musk said at the presentation.
The price for Neuralink is currently unknown, but because humans can’t manipulate the threads a robot has to perform the surgery on your head to insert the chip that is capable of tracking your hands from your mind is likely to be costly.
Understandably, the ambitions for this device, if successful, could lead to a revolution of interaction and paralysis support with modern technology. It will allow people to be able to use devices that millions were previously unable to. Having your mind connected to AI will truly be something taken straight out of a sci-fi movie into real life.
By Jason Grioua