Elon Musk Demonstrates Neuralink Implant On Pigs, What’s Next?

Elon Musk gave the much awaited update on the Neuralink implant. The implant was tested on a pig to record neural activity.

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In the very anticipated Neuralink event, Elon Musk gave the world a sneak peek into his brain-machine interface featuring an implant that is capable of interpreting and transmitting the neural activity in a pig’s brain.

This is the very beginning of the trials of the implant. However, with the rate at which Neuralink is proceeding, it won’t be long before Elon Musk surprises the world by turning yet another dream to reality. Essentially, this brain-machine interface aims to resolve spine and brain disorders with complete symbiosis to AI. In a sense, Musk dreams of a reality, where the implant will be able to connect the human brain to the computer directly. 

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In the online event, Musk spoke about the currently available technology – deep brain stimulation – and the challenges that it bears. He stated that although very valuable, the technology fails in reading and communicating high bandwidth of data, making it not so ideal for a lot of people. Neuralink hopes to improve this considerably. 

Back in July, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted a “breakthrough device” designation to the product. As for now, the company is gearing up for approval on human trials and additional safety tests. 

Current Features Of The Implant 

The current prototype of the device has 1024 thin electrodes, “about 100 times better than the next best consumer devices [that will be] available.” This will be linked to an external device via Bluetooth. The implant is the size of a quarter, measuring 23 mm * 8mm. Additionally, the company claims that the device has day-long battery life. The chip can be charged wirelessly through the skin. 

The device incorporates temperature, pressure and IMU motion sensors. Data from these sensors, like other smart wearables, can warn in case of possible strokes. Musk stated, “There’s actually a lot of functions that this device could do related to monitoring your health and warning you about a possible heart attack or stroke or other damage.”

The Link will be inserted in humans through an advanced robot to achieve accuracy and prevent any injuries to the blood vessels. 

Design Of The Implant

Over the past year, Neuralink has simplified the device for a neat appearance. From an object sitting at the back of the ear to a coin-sized implant incorporated into the skull, the device has evolved exceptionally in terms of design. This means that the device will be invisible to the outside world and can prevent any inferiority complex. Musk stated: “It is kind of like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires.”

The Demonstration Of The Device

In the live event, Musk demonstrated the product on pigs. A pig named Gertrude was used to showcase the working of the Link. The Link was implanted into the pig’s skull about two months ago, and in the event, the pig’s neural activity was displayed as it snuffled around in its pen. 

Although the pig demonstration displayed the transmission of neural activity to the computer, it did not showcase any long-term goals such as having the computer understand and respond to the neural activity. 

Sneak Peek Into The Functionalities Of The Device

Neuralink started off with a medical ambition of assisting people in coping up with and congenital disabilities or neural disorders, perhaps also aiming to improve conditions such as paraplegia or tetraplegia. Musk stated: 

If you can sense what people want to do with their limbs, you can do a second implant where the spinal injury occurred and create a neural shunt. I’m confident in the long term it’ll be possible to restore somebody’s full body motion.
 

Talking about the sci-fi potential of Neuralink, Musk stated that the future is going to be “weird”. He indicated that maybe we would be able to “save and replay memories” in the future, a classic case of a scary and exciting roller coaster ride. It seems like a Black Mirror episode turning into a reality, but only time can truly tell. Musk said, “You could basically store your memories as a backup and restore the memories. You could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body.”

Elon Musk is known to achieve the unachievable, from space programs to intriguing electric vehicles. The man is known for accomplishing almost everything that he puts his hands to. However, Neuralink is a completely different side of his entrepreneurship as it involves health and safety measures and corresponding regulatory approval. Musk’s dream of conceptual telepathy, where people can communicate through their brains is only something we could have dreamt of. Even now, experts believe that it is far from reality. Only time will tell what humanity is capable of. Musk aims to bind citizens that use the Link to their own AI incarnations so that the “future is controlled by the combined will of the people of Earth.” Another Black Mirror episode?

To move forward, the company will have to gain the trust of scientists and common people by delivering promising results in clinical trials on humans. 

In case you missed the event, you can watch it here. 


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