But in a “product update” streamed over YouTube on Friday, Musk, also the founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, joined staffers wearing black masks to discuss the company’s work toward an affordable, reliable brain implant that Musk believes billions of consumers will clamor for in the future. “In a lot of ways,” Musk said, “It’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull, with tiny wires.
Building on that work, Neuralink says it hopes to further develop such brain-computer interfaces (or BCIs) to the point where one can be installed in a doctor’s office in under an hour. “This actually does work,” Musk said of people who have controlled computers with brain signals. “It’s just not something the average person can use effectively.
In tweets leading up to the event, Musk had promised fans a mind-blowing demonstration of neurons firing inside a living brain—though he didn’t say of what species. Minutes into the livestream, assistants drew a black curtain to reveal three small pigs in fenced enclosures; these were the subjects of the company’s implant experiments.
The link is about as thick as the human skull, and Musk said it could plop neatly onto the surface of the brain through a drill hole that could then be sealed with superglue. “I could have a Neuralink right now and you wouldn’t know it,” Musk said.
To neuroscientists, the most intriguing development shown Friday may have been what Musk called “the link,” a silver-dollar-sized disk containing computer chips, which compresses and then wirelessly transmits signals recorded from the electrodes.
The brain of one pig contained an implant, and hidden speakers briefly chimed out ringtones that Musk said were recordings of the animal’s neurons firing in real time.
Those are just a few of the applications that Elon Musk and employees at his four-year-old neuroscience company Neuralink believe electronic brain-computer interfaces will one day bring about.
Elon Musk’s livestreamed brain implant event made promises that will be hard to keep. https://t.co/LJMfUJ0HB4— MIT Technology Review (@techreview) September 7, 2020