Elon Musk’s Neuralink reveals a monkey playing Pong with a brain implant

Neuralink, brain implant startup founded by SpaceX head honcho and self-proclaimed “technoking” Elon Musk, has unveiled a new video of a nine-year-old monkey named “Pager” who plays Pong … with his brain.

The three-minute video shows Pager learning to control a computer with his brain activity. Initially, the monkey uses a joystick to communicate with the computer for a “tasty banana smoothie, delivered through a straw.” The narrator says Pager implanted two Neuralink devices in his brain. The devices, which Musk calls a “Fitbit for your skull,” were unveiled at a press conference in August 2020.

As Pager plays the games, the narrator explains that the Neuralink devices in his brain read his brain activity and that activity is decoded by a computer. When the team disconnects the joystick, Pager continues to play the game – and the brain implant allows him to play “MindPong,” as Neuralink has called it.

The full video is below.

Musk claimed in a tweet Thursday that with the startup’s first product, “someone with paralysis can use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.”

That is a future that still seems far away.

“MindPong is a first demonstration of the potential capabilities of the N1 Link,” the company said in a press release. “However, it’s important to remember that it’s a small part of what our device is supposed to accomplish.”

Neuralink has been relatively silent since its inception in 2016. In the past two years, the startup has produced two Musk-helmed press conferences, detailing the forward momentum. The Neuralink device debuted in 2019, and steady progress appeared to have been made the following year when the pig implants were unveiled.

The briefings also acted as recruitments, with Musk asking people to get in touch and sign up. A similar call is posted at the end of the Neuralink monkey video. But information is still scarce: Musk and Neuralink published one scientific paper in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in October 2019.

Musk teased that Neuralink had wired a monkey’s brain to play video games at a clubhouse meeting in February“We have a monkey with a wireless implant in their skull that can play video games with its mind,” he noted. We’ve seen that in action now, but we don’t have much scientific evidence here yet.

In the simultaneous press release on the Neuralink website, the company states “Our first goal is to give people with paralysis back their digital freedom: 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. “

It’s been some weird days for Neuralink. Earlier this week, Neuralink president and co-founder Max Hodak made an ambiguous tweet about Jurassic Park that many publications meant that Neuralink invested in the development of dino DNAMonkeys Playing Pong isn’t exactly dino DNA, but … maybe it’s even more impressive? Who am I to say?