CEO Elon Musk has posted a YouTube video that appears to show a monkey controlling a computer with its brain activity.
Neuralink, the brain-machine interface company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has published a YouTube video of a macaque monkey called Pager playing the video game Pong with its mind.
The 3-minute 27-second video, shared by Musk on Twitter late Thursday, appears to show the monkey controlling a computer with its brain activity.
Musk wrote on Twitter:
“A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip,”
In the video, a narrator attempts to explain how Pager is able to play Pong with his mind.
The nine-year-old monkey, which had two Neuralink devices put on each side of his brain about six weeks ago, learned how to use a joystick to move a cursor to targets on a screen in exchange for a banana smoothie delivered through a straw, the narrator says.
He goes on to explain that the company’s “Link” devices recorded Pager’s neuron activity while he interacted with the computer. This was possible due to the more than 2,000 tiny wires implanted in the regions of his motor cortex that co-ordinate hand and arm movements, the narrator said.
This data was then fed into a “decoder algorithm” to predict Pager’s intended hand movements in real time.
Once the decoder had been calibrated, Neuralink said the monkey was able to use it to move the cursor where he wanted it to go, instead of relying on the joystick.
Indeed, the YouTube video shows Pager controlling a paddle in the arcade game Pong while the joystick is unplugged. But Andrew Jackson, Professor of Neural Interfaces at Newcastle University, told CNBC that brain-control of computer cursors by monkeys is not new.
“The first comparable demonstrations were published in 2002 although it could be argued the idea dates back to work by Eberhard Fetz in the 1960s,”
He added that the approach has also been tested in humans since 2006.
“The control in the video looks impressive, but without seeing a proper publication on their data it is hard to say how it compares to the current state-of-the-art.”
He said what was “definitely new and innovative” was the fact that there are no cables coming through the skin, and that the brain signals were all being sent wirelessly.
Jackson added that even though its not a new concept it is an improved version.
“This to me is the advance here, and is important both for improving the safety of human applications (wires through the skin are a potential route for infection) and also as a way of improving the welfare of animals used in neuroscience studies,”
Long term, Musk claims that Neuralink could allow humans to send concepts to one another using telepathy and exist in a “saved state” after they die that could then be put into a robot or another human. He acknowledged that he was delving into sci-fi territory.