Neuralink officials later said the company was working with the FDA on an eventual approval and was optimistic about starting its first in-human clinical trial.
Viewers got to see an 18-month-old video of a monkey playing Pong through the implant. There was also a monkey trained to type out “welcome to show and tell” using the BCI.
“The monkeys enjoy doing the demo, and they get the banana smoothie, and it’s a fun game,” Musk said. He added that implants had only gone into monkeys after exhaustive benchtop testing. He seemed to be trying to dispel criticism that Neuralink had caused animals to suffer.
The N1 implant is about the size of a coin. It’s rechargeable remotely and goes along with electrode-laced threads that go further into the brain. In addition, Neuralink has an R1 robot that’s supposed to be programmed to implant the BCI system while avoiding vasculature.
Musk said the Neuralink team has been busy improving and miniaturizing the system. They’ve sought to have an implant that was thinner than the skull removed.
The idea is to initially use the system to restore a form of sight to those who are blind, as well as allow people with spinal cord injuries to use their devices, Musk said. However, he also thought brain-computer interfaces’ ability to speedily communicate with devices was “what we need to mitigate artificial intelligence — or just go along for the ride.”
Neuralink is but one of a number of companies doing BCI work
Brain-computer interfaces are a hot space. (Here are seven companies you need to know.) Blackrock Neurotech recently unveiled its next-gen BCI — called Neuralace — that visually looks like a piece of lace. It is thinner than an eyelash.
Meanwhile, Synchron announced in October that it has started enrollment in the Command trial for its Stentrode BCI. The Stentrode gets implanted within the motor cortex of the brain through the jugular vein in a minimally invasive endovascular procedure. The company announced in July that it achieved a first in-human implant.
Musk stressed that an important goal of the Neuralink show-and-tell was to recruit talent. Neuralink co-founder Max Hodak left in 2021. Recently, Hodak and the team at his new company called Science unveiled the Science Eye, the company’s brain-computer platform. Science Eye does not require an in-skull implant. It could provide some form of sight restoration to people.