Elon Musk’s secretive “brain-machine interface” start-up, Neuralink, revealed some of its Technology that it has been developing. On 16th of July, 2019 evening the Neuralink revealed their technology for the very first time to the public. The main aim of this startup is to develop a technology that can read a human mind.
At an event at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco, Neuralink introduced “threads” as a technology that is smaller than a human hair and can be injected and implanted into the brain directly, to detect the activity of neurons. The start-up company also emphasizes the advantage of flexible “threads” over “brain-machine interfaces”. The company claims that the “threads” are less likely to damage the brain than the materials used in the brain-machine interface.
According to the ‘Elon Musk and Neuralink’, threads are 4 to 6um in width and they are capable of transferring a higher volume of data.
Though the company plans to seek FDA approval for a human clinical trial by 2020, on a version of its device that is “only intended for patients with serious unmet medical diseases”, said Dr. Matthew McDougall, Neuralink’s head neurosurgeon. The first clinical trial will target patients with complete paralysis due to an upper spinal cord and will involve installing four of Neuralink’s implants in patients’ brains. Musk also shared the test results with people at the event. But as for now, the technology is only tested on animals. Musk revealed that the thread was implanted to the money’s brain and as a result, the monkey became capable enough to control a computer with his brain.
Matthew Nagle was the first person who received a brain implant after his spinal cord injury where he was declared paralyzed. After the brain implantation, Nagle was able to control a computer cursor and played Pong by using only his mind. Since then, there have been many paralyzed people with brain implants who have done a lot of things and have moved robotic arms in labs, as a part of scientific research. The technology that helped Nagle and others is called “BrainGates” and it was developed initially at Brown University. The drawback of this technology is that it works on Utah Array, a series of stiff needles that allow for up to 128 electrode channels to function. The human brain shifts in the skull but these needles don’t and as a result, long term usage of this technology can cause harm to the brain. But, Neuralink’s thread technology is made up of polymers that may solve this problem.
The next big advancement in technology is the machine that automatically embeds threads into the brain. Threads are difficult to implant as they are flexible. To resolve this issue, the company has developed a ‘neurosurgical robot’ . The robot is capable of inserting six threads (192 electrodes) per minute, automatically.
Musk said that he wanted to create a technology that allows merging with AI. He also said that the technology showcased by Neuralink has a very good purpose, which is to cure diseases and ultimately secure humanity’s future.