Elon Musk Shows Neuralink Brain Interface Working In A Pig: ‘It’s Like Fitbit For Your Skull’

Elon Musk Shows Neuralink Brain Interface Working In A Pig: ‘It’s Like Fitbit For Your Skull’

Elon Musk shows Neuralink brain interface working in a pig: ‘It’s like Fitbit for your skull,’ Musk says while demonstrating the technology. Elon Musk, Sept. 17, 2018 (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Elon Musk gave a live demonstration on Friday to show how his Neuralink computing device had been surgically implanted into the skull of a pig named Gertrude.

Musk showed off his technology for building a digital link between brains and computers. Neuralink is building a robotic installer to handle the full surgical installation process including opening up the scalp, removing a piece of the skull, inserting hundreds of “thread” electrodes and a computer chip, then closing the incision. The installer is designed to dodge blood vessels to avoid bleeding, Musk said.

As the pig rooted around in its pen on stage Friday night, a wireless link from the Neuralink device showed Gertrude’s brain activity. Neuralink’s in-skull chip is powered by charging wirelessly through the skin, Musk said.

 The South Africa-born billionaire founder of Tesla, Musk is working on colonizing Mars. Responding to his tweets about how Neuralink works, one Twitter user posted, “You’re not from this planet, are you?”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Neuralink approval in July for “breakthrough device” testing, Musk said.

About the size of a coin, the Neuralink implant measures about 0.86 inches across, Musk said. It fits into a small cavity hollowed out of the skull with tiny electrode “threads” penetrating the outer surface of the brain that detect an electrical impulse from nerve cells.

The threads are designed to communicate back to the nerve cells with computer-generated signals. There’s a Bluetooth link to an outside computing device, but the company is looking at other radio technology it can use to dramatically increase the number of data links, CNet reported.

“It’s like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Musk said, comparing his device to the wearable tech brand known for its health and fitness trackers.

Musk said he sees a health benefit for Neuralink besides direct brain-computer communications. Neuralink chips can measure temperature, pressure and movement, data that could warn you about a heart attack or stroke.

The initial focus of Neuralink will be medical, such as helping people deal with brain and spinal cord injuries or congenital defects. The technology could, for example, help paraplegics who’ve lost the ability to move or feel because of spinal cord injury, Musk said. The first human uses will work to improve conditions such as paraplegia.

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“If you can sense what people want to do with their limbs, you can do a second implant where the spinal injury occurred and create a neural shunt,” Musk said. “I’m confident in the long term it’ll be possible to restore somebody’s full-body motion.”

According to Musk, Gertrude has had the implant for about two months. 

The Neuralink startup launched in 2016 and is funded mainly by Musk, CNBC reported. The company said it was designing tiny flexible threads, 10 times thinner than a human hair, to treat brain injuries and trauma, and someday enable symbiosis between humans and artificial intelligence. The design has been tested on at least 19 different animals with robots at an 87-percent success rate, according to a 2019 presentation.

In July 2019, Musk said that he hoped to have an implant in a human patient by the end of 2020, The Verge reported A year later, he tweeted, “We will show neurons firing in real-time on August 28th. The matrix in the matrix”.