On Saturday night, businessman Elon Musk, during a special broadcast, presented a chip for reading brain activity, developed by Neuralink. The implant is expected to be used in a variety of fields in the future, from medicine to video games.
The size of the chip is 23×8 millimeters, it fits under the skin on the skull and connects directly to the brain. The presentation compared the parameters of the device with existing counterparts: many of them require the placement of device elements on the head or body, the installation is performed using surgery or tools like nail guns, they have 8-16 channels and cannot handle a lot of information. A device with 100 channels is currently in development, the elements of which are placed on the head in the form of a box – this increases the risk of infection. The previous chip from Neuralink required a computing unit that looked like a hearing aid behind the ear. The new model has 1024 channels, it is not visible from the outside, and the installation is performed by a robot in an hour. This operation does not even require anesthesia.
The chip performs the calculations and decoding of brain signals by itself; it sends data to other devices via a wireless communication channel. It is not completely autonomous – the device must be charged with induction charging every day. The implant cannot interpret the signals. External devices do this, they also control electronics and record medical indicators.
Monitoring with the chip can be done in near real-time – the latency is less than a nanosecond. The company expects that it can be used to combat medical problems such as memory, hearing or vision loss, insomnia, addiction, pain, and more. In particular, it is mentioned that the chip can help fight Alzheimer’s disease and paralysis. In addition, research is underway on the possibility of its application in robotics, chemistry, biology, neurophysiology, and other fields.
The device can also be useful in everyday life. In particular, Musk said that with his help it will be possible to call up Tesla cars from the parking lot, or, for example, use it to control in video games.
While the device is being tested on animals. The chip was implanted into two pigs: at the presentation, it was shown in real time – a graph of the brain activity of one of the animals. When the pig touched the treat with a penny, high adhesions were highlighted in the graph.
The chips were implanted in animals a few months ago. It successfully took root in both, but the device has already been withdrawn from one. Both pigs are alive and well, one still has the device installed. “This is a healthy and happy pig with an implant that has been standing for two months and is working great,” Musk commented on the condition of the animal.
The next step is human testing. Neuralink has already requested permission from the US authorities for the implantation. It is expected to be received this year.