BRAIN GAME Elon Musk’s controversial Neuralink brain chips could be implanted in humans THIS year
Neuralink microchip and wiring next to a human finger for scale
ELON Musk's brain chip start-up could begin inserting technology into people's minds later this year.
The implants built by California-based Neuralink will one day allow those with physical disabilities to control a computer with their thoughts.
The company released a video last week of a brain-chipped monkey apparently playing video games with its mind.
Similar technology could make its way to human test subjects by the end of the year if the start-up meets a previous prediction from Musk.
The billionaire Tesla boss tweeted in February: "Neuralink is working super hard to ensure implant safety & is in close communication with the FDA.
"If things go well, we might be able to do initial human trials later this year."
Founded in 2016, Neuralink is developing implantable brain chips that are inserted into regions of the mind that control movement.
The company says the technology will one day help people with paralysis to control smartphones and computers with their brain activity.
Eventually, Neuralink wants to provide implants that boost intelligence and potentially cure neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The aim is to create a full brain interface within 25 years.
Musk claims that the technology will stop humans being outpaced by artificial intelligence, which he believes may one day turn against us.
The 49-year-old has made similar ambitious predictions in the past about his project, which was founded in 2016.
He said in 2019 that the chips would be tested in humans by the end of 2020.
Neuralink says it has already plugged its chips into the grey matter of rats and pigs, and now a nine-year-old monkey has gone under the knife.
A three-minute clip released April 9 appears to show an adult macaque controlling simple video games using brain signals alone.
According to the firm's video, the monkey, named Pager, had brain-machine interface (BMI) chips placed in each side of his mind six weeks ago.
The primate has learned to interact with games on a computer to receive a banana smoothie delivered by a steel tube attached to the machine.
Scientists can interact with his implants using an iPhone, "just as you might pair your phone to a Bluetooth speaker", the video's narrator said.
They connect to the brain via 2,000 electrodes hooked to the animal's motor cortex – the part of the mind that controls movement.
Data is fed back to a computer which "decodes" brain signals, allowing an algorithm to predict Pager's hand movements before he makes them.
This, according to the video, means the monkey can move the cursor on a simple video game using his mind alone.
Following the release of the video, Musk laid out a roadmap for the development of a Neuralink chip for humans.
"First Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs," the Tesla and SpaceX boss tweeted.
"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."
He added: "The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal."
Several firms worldwide are working towards the creation of interfaces that link a computer to your brain.
They promise to grant recipients the ability to control an app with their mind or track their stress hormone levels in real-time.
The technology also has military applications, allowing soldiers to command or communicate with swarms of drones using their thoughts.
While brain chips could dramatically expand the scope of what humans are capable of, experts have raised a host of ethical and safety concerns.
Speaking to Zdnet last year, a cyber security buff warned that implants could be hijacked in order to "erase or disrupt" people's skills or memories.
In other news, recipients of the Neuralink implant will run the risk of being HACKED by online crooks, according to cyber security experts.
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