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Elon Musk's Neuralink hopes to help paralysed people control computers.
The technology hasn't been tested on humans yet.
Earlier this week, Neuralink, the Elon Musk-led company developing brain-machine interfaces, revealed that they are working on "threads” in a chip to help paralysed people control devices like phones or computers and empower people with brain disorders. The goal is to replace cumbersome devices currently used as brain-machine interfaces. According to a white paper credited to “Elon Musk & Neuralink,” these threads are created to transfer high volumes of data “as many as 3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads.” As a matter of fact, at 4 to 6μm, the threads are thinner than the thinnest of human hair. Moreover, the company has built a robot that automatically embeds these threads.
The module that sits outside the head wirelessly receives information from "threads" embedded in the brain. Controlled by an iPhone app, the chip is called "N1 sensor" and it has just a USB port coming out of the head.
"This has the potential to solve several brain-related diseases. The idea is to understand and treat brain disorders, preserve and enhance your own brain and create a well-aligned future," Musk told the audience at the event on Tuesday. The event wasn’t simply for the hype, “the main reason for doing this presentation is recruiting,” Musk said. He asked people to go apply to work there. Moreover, the president of Neuralink, Max Hodak said that he wasn’t originally sure “this technology was a good idea,” but that Musk convinced him it would be possible.
It is important to note that this development comes from a person (Elon Musk) who is a firm critic of Artificial Intelligence. However, Musk said that the long-term goal is to find a way to "achieve a sort of symbiosis with AI but that is not a mandatory thing. This is something you can choose to have if you want".
Hodak further said, “we didn't want any connectors or wires coming through the skin. It had to be something that would last for a longer period of time, not something that you'd have to take out after two-three years; it had to have practical bandwidth." Hence, the chip is built to be long-lasting.
For now, the machine has been tested on rats, and Musk revealed, “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain.” In an interview with The New York Times, Musk also said that Neuralink is hoping to have this in a human patient by the end of next year. However, they haven't got approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet.
Neuralink is focused on building devices, which resemble like tiny sewing machines, and they can be implanted in the human brain - to improve memory or interface directly with computing devices.
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