Neuralink Brain Chip Plans: Help the Blind See and the Paralyzed Walk

NeuralinkElon Musk’s startup, which hopes to connect our brains directly to computers, showed progress Wednesday in two medical areas: helping blind people see and helping people with spinal cord injuries walk.

The company, one of five that Musk heads, is working on technology to drop thousands of electrodes thinner than a hair into the outer surface of the human brain. Each electrode is a tiny wire connected to a battery-powered, remotely recharged quarter-sized chip pack that’s embedded in a space that once held a skull ring. The chip, called N1, communicates wirelessly with the outside world.

The technology is still a long way from initial medical uses, much less Musk’s ultimate vision of using Neuralink to communicate with superintelligent AIs. But it is making significant progress, including an application to the Food and Drug Administration to begin human trials, which it hopes to begin within 6 months, the company said on show and tell event. lasting more than two hours.

“Our goal will be to turn on the lights for someone who has spent decades living in the dark,” said Neuralink researcher Dan Adams, who is working on the effort to repackage the camera data into a format compatible with the brain and feed it directly to the visual cortex.

Now playing:
You are watching this:

Elon Musk shows off Neuralink’s latest Monkey Typing demo…

7:11 a.m

Musk has some credibility when it comes to revolutionary technology. His electric vehicle company Tesla is revolutionizing cars, and his SpaceX team is transforming access to space with reusable rockets. However, his reputation as a technological genius has been tarnished with chaos on Twitter after his A $44 billion acquisition. Musk’s Boring Company, which aims to revamp road transport with tunnels, too didn’t keep his promises more.

Neuralink does not seem easier than social networks. Connecting computer hardware to our own wetware comes with enormous technical, regulatory and ethical challenges. Helping the blind see is one thing, but a digital feed straight into our brains may not help those of us who already spend too much time on our phones.

Neuralink technology to help people with quadriplegia walk

Neuralink has previously shown how its electrodes can listen to brain activity. By capturing the brain signals of a monkey named Pager who played the classic video game Pong, Neuralink computers learned to interpret the signals to control the motor. Later, only brain signals could control the game.

At Neuralink’s show-and-tell event, designed to recruit new talent, the company showed off a new gimmick: a monkey named Sake that uses its mind to follow prompts and type on a virtual keyboard. Their implants are charged wirelessly by forcing the monkeys, with a fruit smoothie, to sit under a charger built into a branch just above their heads.

But Thursday’s biggest developments used those same electrodes to send signals back to the neurons that make up our brains and nervous system.

One experiment used electrodes in the spinal cord of a pig to control various leg movements, a technology that could eventually lead to helping people with quadriplegics walk or use their arms. Neuralink’s approach involves not only intercepting the brain’s movement commands and relaying them to the legs, but also hearing the sensory signals from those limbs and sending them back to the brain so the brain knows what’s going on.

Diagram of a Neuralink connection between the human brain and spinal cord

Neuralink has made progress toward its goal of using its N1 chip to intercept signals from the brain and then channel them through spinal cord damage so that paralyzed people can walk again.

Neuralink; Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

“We have a lot of work to do to achieve this complete vision, but I hope you can see how all the pieces are there to achieve this,” said Joey O’Doherty, a researcher working on engine control technology at Neuralink.

You see images and write with your mind

Another experiment fed visual data captured by a camera into a monkey’s visual cortex, showing virtual flashes that the monkey interpreted as being in different locations. It’s a technology that Neuralink hopes will lead to a visual prosthesis for blind people.

The first-generation Neuralink technology used 1,024 electrodes, but Neuralink showed next-generation models with more than 16,000 electrodes. That much detail would dramatically improve the fidelity of the image a blind person could see, Adams said.

A monkey sipping a prize tube of fruit smoothie looks at a computer screen with a virtual keyboard

A monkey named Sake uses his mind to control the cursor to type words with a virtual keyboard.

Neuralink; Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

“If you put a device on either side of your visual cortex, it will give you 32,000 points of light to make an image in someone who is blind,” Adams said.

Another Neuralink application allows paralyzed people to use their mind typing implants.

“We’re confident that someone who essentially has no other interface to the outside world would be able to control their phone better than someone who has working hands,” Musk said.

Neuralink is not alone

Neuralink is not alone in its pursuit of the field called brain-machine interface (BMI) or brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. Academic researchers have produced a a constant stream of scientific articlesand startups like BlackRock Neurotech, Synchronous and Paradromics are also active. Some like onlyuse non-invasive approaches that do not require surgery.

One thing that separates Neuralink from some of these efforts is the goal of mass production.

“Manufacturing is hard — I’d say 100 to 1,000 times harder to go from a prototype to a device that’s safe, reliable, works in a wide range of circumstances, is affordable, and does it at scale,” Musk said. “It’s insanely difficult.”

Musk envisions Neuralink making millions of brain chips and said he expects to have one himself. To achieve this goal, the company is trying to automate as much of the technology as possible. Its R1 robot inserts electrodes into the brain without damaging blood vessels, but a next-generation machine is designed to handle more surgeries, including cutting open the skull.

Neuralink is also working on locating its brain chips one layer further from the brain, on the outside of a layer called the dura. This required major changes to the robot’s needles and needle control systems, upgrades the company is working on today.

“There aren’t that many neurosurgeons — maybe about 10 in a million people,” said Christine Odabashian, who leads Neuralink’s surgery engineering team. “To do the best and have an affordable and accessible procedure, we need to understand how one neurosurgeon can oversee many procedures at the same time.”

Musk’s Neuralink Science Fiction

Another big difference between Neuralink and its competitors is Musk’s sci-fi vision.

The company’s ambitions are big: “A generalized input-output device that can interact with every aspect of your brain,” Musk said. But the long-term plan is much bigger.

“What do we do with AI, with artificial general intelligence?” asked Musk. “If we have a digital superintelligence far smarter than any human, how do we mitigate that risk at the species level? Even in a benign scenario where the AI ​​is very benevolent, how do we even deal with this? How do we participate?”

In Musk’s mind—conceptually only for now, but perhaps eventually physically—the answer is Neuralink.

#Neuralink #Brain #Chip #Plans #Blind #Paralyzed #Walk

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button