Elon Musk shares video of monkey playing video game with Neuralink brain implant

Elon Musk shares video of monkey playing video game with Neuralink brain implant
Hannibal Hanschke/Pool via AP
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Elon Musk is making good on his word to develop a neural interface, with a demonstration of his implantable brain-machine interface, Neuralink, being used by a monkey. 

Using only its mind to control the paddles in the game, the video appears to show a monkey engaged in a session of the classic video game, Pong. Musk shared the video of the monkey late Thursday night on his Twitter profile.

"Monkey plays Pong with his mind," wrote the Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink founder, with a link to a full video on YouTube. "A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!" he said. 

Per the video, a nine-year-old macaque monkey named Pager was implanted with a Neuralink device six weeks prior to the video being filmed. It was first taught to play Pong with a joystick, learning rudimentary controls allowing it to move the paddle in the game. Following weeks of lessons, the Neuralink chip was then able to use machine learning to anticipate the monkey’s move and predict its movements.

Researchers then disconnected the joystick from the computer, but the monkey was able to continue playing the game of Pong without its controller connected. 

"We are pleased to reveal the Link's capability to enable a macaque monkey, named Pager, to move a cursor on a computer screen with neural activity using a 1,024 electrode fully-implanted neural recording and data transmission device," reads a Neuralink statement

Prior to Pager’s demonstration, Neuralink previously hooked up a pig with a chip implanted into its brain in 2020. 

Neuralink says it is building on decades of research that first saw systems connected by a few hundred electrodes that required a physical connector through the skin. In contrast, Neuralink’s N1 Link is made up of 1,024 electrodes. 

"Our mission is to build a safe and effective clinical BMI system that is wireless and fully implantable that users can operate by themselves and take anywhere they go; to scale up the number of electrodes for better robustness and higher information throughput; and to automate the implant surgery to make it as rapid and safe as possible," the company stated. 

On Twitter, Musk expressed optimism at the development of Neuralink and elaborated on the company’s first upcoming product. 

“First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” he said. “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. The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal.”

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