What just happened? Elon Musk’s Neuralink company has just released a video of a monkey playing a video game using only his mind. The macaque is able to move the paddles in a game of Pong just by thinking about it.
As explained by the narrator, nine-year-old Pager had a Neuralink implanted in his brain around six weeks before the video was filmed. He’s first seen playing a game that involves moving a cursor to a colored square that changes places on the board, rewarding him with a banana smoothie each time he performs the task successfully.
As Pager plays, the Neuralink records neuron activity. The data is used to determine which regions of the monkey’s brain are firing when specific hand actions are carried out. Once the patterns are learned, the joystick is disconnected, but the monkey is still able to control the cursor because he’s thinking about the movements.
Later, we see Pager playing Pong—with an impressive level of skill—using only the power of his mind.
The long-term goal for Neuralink is to allow people with limited movement to operate a computer or phone by thought alone. Musk tweeted that the company’s first product would allow “someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.” He added that later versions could enable paraplegics to walk again.
Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2021
“MindPong is an initial demonstration of the potential capabilities of the N1 Link,” the company said in a press release. “However, it’s important to remember that it is a small slice of what our device is intended to achieve.”
“Our first goal is to give people with paralysis their digital freedom back: to communicate more easily via text, to follow their curiosity on the web, to express their creativity through photography and art, and, yes, to play video games,” Neuralink writes on its website.
It was back in 2017 when Musk launched Neuralink to develop “consensual telepathy.” The company has been relatively quiet since then, though the world’s second-richest person last year said the tech would allow users to stream music directly into their brains.
During a Clubhouse meeting in February, Musk revealed that Neuralink hopes to begin human trials this year. He also mentioned a monkey “with a wireless implant in their skull who can play video games using his mind.”