Elon Musk’s company Neuralink is fast tracking technology into the near future, with a computer-brain interface touted to be the cure-all “fitbit” for your brain.
Like something out of an episode of Doctor Who, Musk says the Neuralink brain implant has the potential to cure multiple diseases while also serving as a device similar to a smartphone within the human brain.
In a “Product Demonstration” Livestream shared via YouTube on August 28, Musk and his employees at Neuralink explained the benefits of this new piece of technology and foreshadowed its immense popularity with consumers in the future.
“I think it’s going to blow your mind,” Musk said, possible pun intended, while discussing the progress of the brain implant, “… It’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires.”
The device itself is about the size of a 10-cent piece measuring at 23 millimeters by 8 millimeters, and according to Musk, holds 1024 channels and is practically invisible as it sits flush with the skull.
Musk continued by explaining the medical benefits of the prototype, which focuses particularly on altering the electronic signals in the brain that indicate pain.
“We want to have a device that you can basically put in your head, and feel and look totally normal, but it solves some important problems in your brain or spine,” he said.
He continued by explaining that all human senses, including that of pain are due to the electric signals sent to the brain, and by implanting the Neuralink device there is an opportunity to manipulate these signals.
“You need an electronic thing to solve an electronic problem,” he summarised.
However, according to Antonio Regalado from MIT Technology Review, Neuralink are yet to provide any evidence to support their claims despite it being four years since its inception.
During the demonstration, Musk claimed Neuralink holds the capabilities to solve a number of diseases including depression, seizures and strokes; but according to Regalado the company is yet to show any definitive demonstrations to back these claims.
While there was no mention of human testing or demonstrations, Musk did present viewers with what he described as the “three little pigs demo”.
Unveiled behind a curtain, three small pigs in fenced enclosures were revealed to be the subjects of the company’s implant experiments. One pig did not have a brain implant, while another currently had an implant, and the third had undergone the procedure but had since had the implant removed.
Musk said that after the removal of the implant the pig experienced no side-effects and was in the same condition as she was before the initial procedure.
“This is a very important thing to demonstrate,” he said.
“If you have a Neuralink and then you decide you don’t want it, or if you want to get an upgrade … it is removed in such a way that you are healthy and happy afterwards.”
According to Musk, the procedure of getting the Neuralink implanted will take less than an hour, which means ideally patients could leave the hospital on the same day they entered for the operation.
He added that the procedure can also be conducted without the use of general anesthesia via an advanced robot, of which he can be seen standing beside during the livestream.
This prototype robot was first presented by Neuralink a year ago with the intent of driving one thousand electrodes into rodent’s brains, but has since been updated to carry out the procedure on humans. There has been no mention of human test subjects for the Neuralink.
Musk has yet to announce a release date for the device.