The Tesla and SpaceX CEO said that whilst he doesn’t want to ‘raise hopes unreasonably’, he is ‘increasingly confident’ that his intriguing brain machine will be implanted into the first humans in 2022.
He’s also ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the Neuralink chips will be able to restore full body functionality to those who are tetraplegic and quadriplegic.
He also said that the standards that he’s imposing on Neuralink will be higher than those demanded by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In a video interview for the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Conference, Musk said: “I think we have a chance with Neuralink to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury,
“I don’t want to raise hopes unreasonably, but I’m increasingly convinced that this could be done.”
So, what Neuralink is and what it actually does is quite complicated, but it has some seriously bold ambitions, such as restoring movement to those who are paralysed.
In April, they released a video that showed a monkey called Pager learning to play the 1970s video game Pong using only its mind.
Apparently, two chips implanted against the monkey’s skull send brain signals from the monkey through a 1,024 electrode transmission device, with the signals then decoded and calibrated in order to predict what the monkey wants to do.
Told you it was complicated.
In a video, the company said: “To control his paddle on the right side of the screen, Pager simply thinks about moving his hand up or down,”
Musk then said that the first Neuralink chips would allow paralysis patients to use their smartphone ‘faster than someone using thumbs’.
He then added that later versions of the implant could help ‘paraplegics to walk again’.
Naturally, opinions are divided on the ethical repercussions of such technology, particularly from PETA, who have criticised the decision to test the products on animals.
The MIT Technology Review has also described the claims made by the company as ‘neuroscience theatre’ and ‘highly speculative’.
It remains to be seen whether the claims that have been made are true or not, and whether the bold ambitions for the device will ever be realised, but – if Musk is correct – we may have our answer at some point in the next year.