Elon Musk shares video of his Neuralink monkey playing video games with its mind

‘First Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,’ tech billionaire says

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 09 April 2021 10:47
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Monkey plays video games with it mind using Elon Musk's Neuralink technology

Elon Musk’s brain-computer startup Neuralink has unveiled a monkey that is able to play video games using only its mind.

A video demonstration shared by Mr Musk shows a nine-year-old macaque monkey called Pager with a Neuralink inserted on each side of his brain.

The two chips, implanted flush with the skull, send brain signals from the monkey through a 1,024 electrode transmission device termed the N1 Link. This neural activity is then decoded and calibrated in order to predict the monkey’s intentions.

After just six weeks of practice, the monkey had learnt to play the 1970’s video game classic Pong in return for a banana smoothie reward.

“To control his paddle on the right side of the screen, Pager simply thinks about moving his hand up or down,” Neuralink’s video states.

“As you can see, Pager is amazingly good at mind Pong. He’s focussed and he’s playing entirely of his own volition. It’s not magic, the reason Neuralink works is because it’s recording and decoding electrical signals from the brain.”

The video demonstrates significant progress towards Neuralink’s vision of providing direct neural control of a computer cursor to people with paralysis.

Last summer, Neuralink performed a demonstration using a pig, however macaque monkeys have similar brain homology and behavioural abilities to humans.

This allows Neuralink to design, validate and advance a brain-machine interface system that could one day improve the quality of life of people with neurological disorders.

“First Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” Mr Musk tweeted on Friday.

“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.”

Neuralink has previously detailed the measures that are in place to care for the animals that it uses to test the next-generation technology.

The neural interface startup has veterinarians on staff to ensure humane treatment of the animals, the startup claims.

“I oversee all facets of the animal care program from the day-to-day husbandry, food, water, provisions for these animals to ensure that they are always looked after to the best of our ability,” Sam Baker, one of the firm’s attending veterinarians, said in a video published last year by Neuralink.

“If you look into any other field where animals are [used] - the food industry, the pet industry - you’re not going to find any other area where there’s a multiple veterinarians, veterinary technicians, animal care behaviourists, all looking at an animal every single day.”

Mr Musk said on Friday that human trials are expected to begin later this year.

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