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Neuralink demo shows monkey performing ‘telepathic typing’

Neuralink owner Elon Musk said paperwork for human trials has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which he claimed could lead to human trials of the company’s brain-implant technology “in about six months.”

Neuralink, which Musk helped to set up in 2016, is developing a system that directly links the human brain to a computer interface. It believes the technology, part of which is implanted directly into the brain, will one day allow the human mind to control gadgets and programs merely through thought, potentially opening up a whole new world for people with brain disorders and conditions such as paralysis.

In April 2021, Neuralink demonstrated early trials of the technology by showing a monkey playing a game of Pong just by thinking about it.

This time, at a special show-and-tell event held on Wednesday evening, a new video showed a different monkey using thought processes to move a mouse cursor around a keyboard while also making selections to create words. Describing the monkey’s actions as “telepathic typing,” Musk said the demonstration raises the possibility of “someone with no interface with the outside world [being able] to control their phone better than someone who has working hands.” You can watch the monkey in action in the video below:

Neuralink Show and Tell, Fall 2022

Musk said he believed Neuralink’s technology was now at a point where human trials would be safe, going so far as to say that if one of his own children suffered an accident where Neuralink’s technology could potentially help, he would “feel comfortable” going ahead with the implant, adding, “At least in my opinion, it would not be dangerous.”

The Neuralink co-founder has said previously that future, more advanced versions of the technology may even be able to function in a way that will enable paraplegics to walk again.

But, of course, regulators will have the final say on its use, with Neuralink hoping to get the green light from the FDA next year to take its technology to the next level.

Others have been working on similar technology, with some making significant progress.

Musk was also keen to address concerns about animal welfare during the presentation. He described the monkeys being used by Neuralink as “happy” and said they’re not “strapped to a chair” when carrying out tasks that also involve regular food-based rewards. He added that before considering putting a Neuralink device inside an animal’s brain, “we do everything we possibly can with rigorous benchtop testing, so we’re not cavalier in putting devices into animals. We’re extremely careful and we always want the device — whenever we do the implant — to be confirmatory, not exploratory.”

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Trevor Mogg
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