Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company focused on developing brain-machine interfaces, has posted a video on YouTube that shows a monkey navigating a cursor on the screen using only its mind.
Pager, a 9-year-old macaque, had a Neuralink implanted about six weeks before the video was shot, says the video’s unnamed narrator. He first learned to play video games with a joystick for a banana smoothie reward, supplied with a metal straw. As he did this, the Neuralink device recorded information about which neurons were firing – essentially learning to predict hand movements by recording which regions were firing. After learning the patterns, the joystick Pager used to play was disconnected from the computer. The monkey seems to keep playing the game with only his mind – playing a game of Pong without any joystick.
First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2021
This style of scholarly publication is unusual; Usually, videos like this are supplemental material to peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals. Those papers contain data that can be verified by other scientists. It’s likely that a monkey is playing video games with a brain implant – after all, a paralyzed man has already used a robotic arm and a non-Neuralink brain implant to drink beer. Pong is a classic of brain-machine interfaces – in 2006 Matthew Nagle did a similar feat with four days of training
In July 2019, Musk said a monkey could already control a computer with its brain and the Neuralink implant. Since then, we have seen demonstrations of Neuralink technology in pigs. Today, Musk tweeted that Neuralink might make a paralyzed person tweet faster than a person using their thumbs on a smartphone. A later goal, he said in a follow-up tweet, will be to send signals from Neuralinks in the brain to Neuralinks in large neural clusters of the body, “enabling paraplegics to walk again.”