As promised by Elon Musk via Twitter, in the Italian night between 28 and 29 August 2020 the South African tycoon showed what Neuralink can do, the chip designed to connect the human brain and computer (or rather, artificial intelligence) through special interfaces.
The protagonists of the live streaming video now visible on the official Neuralink channel were three pigs: Joyce, Dorothy and Gertrude. The first never had a neural implant, the second had it but it was removed, and the third has a Neuralink chip in his brain. During the live Gertrude used her snout, the main and most developed sensory organ in a pig, to smell the surroundings; all of Gertrude’s brain activity was then shown on another screen, highlighting the variations in intensity of activity based on what was smelled and the actions of the animal.
This in itself is nothing new, as the technology that translates brain activity into digital data has already existed for quite some time; what should be highlighted is the change in product design, which from an external implant to be installed behind the ear has become a sort of coin to be placed in the skull through a small cavity. Then, the chip would be able to communicate with the outside via low-energy Bluetooth, so that it can interface with computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices.
According to Elon Musk, Neuralink will work as “a Fitbit in the skull with lots of tiny cables “, analyzing information associated with brain activity to help the user: for the founder of SpaceX and Tesla this device in the future will prove essential for all those who will suffer from problems with the brain or spine, or even stroke, paralysis, blindness, hearing loss or conditions such as anxiety and depression.
He himself stated: “A device like this can actually solve these problems, but many people don’t realize it. All the senses – sight, hearing, smell – but also various sensations such as pain are signals sent by neurons to the brain. By correcting these signs, everything can be corrected ”.
Currently the Neuralink team would be working on the prototype 0.9, with 1,024 channels for connecting to a wireless network, battery with an autonomy of 24 hours with inductive charging, virtually invisible design and sensors like those found in smartwatches. Among the various functions that have been talked about for a long time may also appear in the future the playback of songs and audio files.
To “install” the chip is provided a surgery with a special robot, to be performed without anesthesia and lasting less than an hour. Potentially, according to Musk, patients could leave the hospital on the same day as the surgery. This procedure was also shown during live streaming, with a robot making an incision on the skin, inserting the chip and electrodes and finally closing the incision.
In conclusion, Musk also started a Q&A session lasting about 30 minutes in which he answered various questions related to the performance of the chip, the architecture of the device, its safety, but also the ability to call a Tesla telepathically (to which Musk replied “Sure, obviously”) or play video games.