Musk’s company gets the green light to test brain implants on people.
SAN FRANCISCO: Thursday, Elon Musk’s company Neuralink said that US regulators have given them permission to try its brain implants in people.
Neuralink said that getting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its first clinical study on humans is “an important first step” for its technology, which is meant to let brains talk directly to computers.
In a post on Musk’s Twitter, Neuralink said, “We’re excited to share that the FDA has given us the green light to start our first-in-human clinical study.”
Neuralink says that it is not yet possible to sign up for a clinical study.
The tech has been tried out on animals before.
Musk said that the goal of Neuralink implants is to let people’s brains talk directly to computers. He said this in December during a presentation by the company.
“We’ve been working hard to get ready for our first implant in a human,” he said at the time. “We want to be very careful and sure that it will work well before we put a device in a human.”
Neuralink prototypes the size of a coin have been put into the skulls of monkeys, as the company showed in a demonstration.
During a lecture, Neuralink showed several monkeys “playing” simple video games or moving a cursor on a screen by using their Neuralink implants.
Pigs have also been used to test the device. An early demonstration showed how a surgical robot is used to remove a piece of the skull and replace it with a Neuralink disk. The disk’s thin wires are then put in the brain in a certain way.
Musk says that the disk records nerve activity and sends the data via a standard Bluetooth wireless signal to a device like a smartphone. Musk once said during a talk, “It actually fits quite well in your head.”
“It could be right under your hair and you wouldn’t know.”
Putting up memories?
Musk said that the company would try to use the implants to help people who had lost the ability to see and move again. “At first, we would let someone who has almost no control over their muscles use their phone faster than someone who has hands that work,” he said.
“As miraculous as it may sound, we are sure that it is possible to give a person with a cut spinal cord full body function again,” he said.
Musk said that his ultimate goal is to make sure that artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t get so smart that it makes humans look stupid. This is in addition to the possibility that AI could be used to treat neurological illnesses.
Synchron, which stated in July that it had implanted the first brain-machine interface in the United States, is another company working on similar systems.
Members of the Neurallink team have shared a “wish list” that includes technology that gives the paralyzed the ability to move and the blind the ability to see, as well as technology that allows telepathy and the uploading of memories for later use or maybe to be downloaded into new bodies.
Musk, on the other hand, just started a business that will focus on making AI smarter. The CEO of Tesla has also said that the company’s technology for self-driving cars is on the verge of a success.