New Delhi: Tech billionaire Elon Musk has announced that his company, Neuralink, will begin clinical trials to implant brain chips into the human brain within the next six months. State-of-the-art technology in development will help disabled patients move and communicate easily again. Musk also said it could help restore sight to people who are partially blind. Speaking to a crowd of selected invitees at Neuralink headquarters, where he was in a presentation that lasted nearly three hours, Musk emphasized the speed with which the company is developing the device.
“Before putting the device on a human, we want to be very careful and make sure it works well,” Musk said in the long-awaited public update of the device.
“Progress may seem very slow at first, especially when applied to humans, but we are doing everything in parallel to scale it up,” he said. “So, in theory, progress should be exponential.”
Musk said the first two human applications targeted by the Neuralink device are to restore vision and enable muscle movement in people who can’t. “I believe that people who were never blind, such as those who were born blind, can regain their sight,” he said.
How does technology work?
The company is working on a new class of robots called “surgical robots (R1)” that will quickly cut a section of the human skull and implant an advanced chip into it. The N1 chip is a small microprocessor that is firmly anchored inside the human brain and can record and stimulate the host’s brain. Reportedly, it is a thin electrode around the ear that connects directly to the brain. Currents sent from these electrodes can stimulate the brain.
“Upgradability is very important. Our first production device is very similar to the iPhone 1, and it’s clear that even when the iPhone 14 is available, the iPhone 1 will stick with us. said Musk.
Neuralink, based in the San Francisco Bay Area and Austin, Texas, has been conducting animal testing in recent years as it seeks approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin clinical trials in humans.
Neuralink’s last public presentation over a year ago involved monkeys with brain chips that played computer games by thinking alone.
Musk, who also runs electric car maker Tesla, rocket company SpaceX, and social media platform Twitter, is known for lofty goals like colonizing Mars and saving humanity. His ambitions for Neuralink, which he launched in 2016, are of an equally grand scale.
He developed a chip that would allow the brain to control complex electronics, eventually restoring motor function to people with paralysis and treating brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s. He also talks about the fusion of the brain and artificial intelligence.
(using information from Reuters)