In a live-streamed event on YouTube, Elon Musk’s Neuralink demonstrated a pig outfitted with the company’s device that is recording signals from an area of the brain linked to her snout that was implanted on her for two months at the time of the demonstration.
When the pig’s snout touched things, an array of dots and a series of noise indicated when more neurons were firing. A snout is like a sensitive sensing instrument in pigs that have large parts of their brains devoted to the snout,
The design of the Neuralink device is worth noting as the device was almost invisible on the pig that now appears like a coin and meant to sit flush with the skull, rather than a small module placed just over the ear.
“It’s like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires that can pair with a smartphone app over Bluetooth Low Energy,” Musk said.
Neuralink’s addition to the brain-machine interfaces is the development of these flexible wires that are covered in electrodes to pick up activities in the brain. Neuralink’s device offers more electrodes than other systems which means it can collect more information that might cause fewer damages than stiff needles.
The team’s main challenge is to create the Neuralink device to last for decades over the corrosive enviornment of the brain.
Musk said that the Neuralink device could help solve any number of neurological problems, from memory loss to strokes to addiction, or monitor a users’s health and warn them if they’re having a heart attack. Neuralink is working to created the implant process for the device as simple and safe as Lasik eye surgery and tonight Musk said that this could be done without general anesthesia in under an hour.
Last year, Musk said he hoped to start clinical trials in 2020 that will be ina small number of patients with severe spinal cord injuries to make sure it works and is safe. In a long term, Musk said that they will be able to restore full motion in people suffering with those types of injuries using a second implant on the spine.
Musk said that the main purpose of the demonstration was to recruit more people to join a team of about 100 people currently to more than 10,000 in the future including robotics, electrical, and software engineers to work on the device and refine the surgical procedure for the implementation.
Musk’s project is primarily focused on merging human brains with AI, but the device hasn’t been tested on humans yet. However, the project has designated as a breakthrough device by the US Food and Drug Administration that would allow them to get feedback from the agency throughout the development process.
But the most important thing the device might be able to do, Musk said, would be to let people achieve what he calls “AI symbiosis,” which allows the human brain to merge with artificial intelligence. “Such that the future of the world is controlled by the combined will of the people of Earth — I think that that’s obviously gonna be the future that we want,” he said tonight.
Source: The Verge