Elon Musk claims that Neuralink is about “six months” away from the first human trial

Posted on

At a show and tell event on Wednesday, Elon Musk said that his brain-computer interface company, Neuralink, could implant one of its devices in someone’s head within the next six months — meaning it won’t happen this year. He also claimed that he would have the device implanted in his own head at some point in the future.

During the presentation, Musk said the company had submitted most of the paperwork needed for a human clinical trial to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medical devices in the United States. Previously, Musk had said he had hoped human trials would begin in 2020, then 2022. Now that has been pushed back to at least 2023.

Neuralink’s goal is to create a device that can be implanted in the brain and used to control a computer with brain activity. In 2019, Musk revealed that the company was testing its device in monkeys. In 2020, the pigs trotted out with the implants. And last year, Neuralink released a video of a monkey playing Pong with its brain. This year the monkeys are back. In a video demonstration, one of them helped “type” the phrase “welcome to show and tell” using their implant by focusing on highlighted words and letters. Another video showed the monkeys being trained to charge the devices by sitting under a wireless charger.

A monkey sucks on a banana smoothie straw positioned so that its head bumps into an embedded wireless charger in a tree branch.

The wireless charger for the banana smoothie.
Screenshot of Sean Hollister / Acutely

Later in the presentation, Neuralink researchers also showed a pig on a treadmill, which they said helped them explore how to address mobility issues in humans in the future.

The Neuralink devices themselves are small, with multiple flexible “wires” that can be inserted into the brain. “It’s like replacing a piece of your skull with a smartwatch, for lack of a better analogy,” Musk said.

In about 15 minutes, 64 of these “wires” can be implanted in the brain using a robotic system, DJ Seo, Implant’s vice president and co-founder of Neuralink, said during the presentation – using a mannequin to show how the process could work.

Neuralink threads.

Neuralink threads.
Screenshot of Sean Hollister / Acutely

The reason for the robotic surgeons comes down to how small those wires are. “Imagine taking a hair off your head and sticking it in jello covered in saran wrap, doing that to a precise depth and precision, and doing that 64 times in a reasonable amount of time,” said Christine Odabashian, the leader of Neuralink’s hardware insertion team.

The company’s 2019 and 2020 demos were intended as recruiting events, and this one is no different; the company admitted that recruitment was the main goal of the evening. Neuralink is currently looking for different types of jobs as it moves from “prototype to product,” Musk said on tonight’s show and tell.

The event was primarily a technical presentation of the device, showing how the system was built, the challenges the team faced, how the technology has improved so far and what developments are coming next. Researchers at the company said they were developing treatments that could help improve or restore vision, or restore movement to people with paralysis. On the technical side, the company has an ambition to ensure that the device itself can be easily upgraded.

“I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want an iPhone 1 in your head if an iPhone 14 was available,” Musk said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *