Neuralink moves ahead with human-computer interface brain implant

Several tiny Neuralink chips would be attached to hundreds of tiny threadlike electrodes implanted in the brain. (Neuralink)

Neuralink plans to seek U.S. FDA approval for human clinical trials as early as next year to test its ambitious brain-computer interface technology, officials said at a lengthy presentation this week. The startup, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, wants to implant tiny electrodes inside a patient’s skull, allowing the person to control computers or a smartphone wirelessly.

As many as four implants could be inserted, opening the potential for paralyzed people to move or stroke-impaired people to talk. That’s ambitious, but Musk hasn’t been afraid of a challenge with other ambitious plans such as a reusable rocket.

Musk is also seeking human symbiosis with artificial intelligence, a “full brain-machine interface.” Humans could “go along for the ride,” he told an audience in San Francisco late Tuesday. “We can have the option of effectively merging with AI.”

Industry Event

Embedded Technologies Expo & Conference

Limited Passes Available - Register now and save with Early Bird Rates!

Embedded Technologies Expo & Conference is North America’s ONLY embedded event focused on helping design engineers through exhibits showcasing new and emerging products & solutions, education, training, and hands-on learning experiences. Join us in the heart of Silicon Valley - June 22-24, 2020 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, CA. Use promo code FE100 for $100 off Conference Passes.

Musk compared the surgical procedure to something as painless as Lasik eye surgery. Much of the presentation showed how Neuralink has developed a tiny chip that reads data from electrodes made of polymers placed near brain neurons and synapses. There would be hundreds of these electrodes implanted, each a thread about one-tenth as wide as a human hair.

A sophisticated robot would perform the surgeries to place the electrodes in the proper locations. Implanting the electrodes into rats has produced far more information than other systems embedded into humans.

Musk has invested $100 million in the project and has raised another $58 million from investors, according to several reports. Tuesday’s event was designed partly to attract more workers to the company, which now numbers 90 employees. On its website, Neuralink said it needs workers with a wide variety of expertise. The company is seeking a number of engineers with concentrations from materials to optics to robotics as well as a neuroscientist.

Human-computer implants are not a new idea. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has funded research allowing quadriplegics to move robot arms for simple tasks like drinking and the Pentagon has financed technology to use light instead of embedded electrodes to gather information, according to the New York Times.

RELATED: "Researchers deploy AI to detect bias in AI and humans"


Suggested Articles

Researchers from two universities have teamed to develop 3D-printed sensors that could replace finger pricks to measure blood sugar level.

Purdue University researchers are creating technologies to help compress 3D camera files and automate focus and exposure settings.

A $2.2 trillion economic relief package is anticipated to give the struggling U.S. economy a shot in the arm.