The company Neuralink, of the millionaire founder of Tesla Elon Musk, reported that it was authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test its brain implants in humans. Coin-sized prototypes have been implanted in animal skulls. Several monkeys are already able to ‘play’ video games
“Recruitment for clinical trials is not yet open,” the Californian company specified on its Twitter account, but highlighted an “important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people.”
Neuralink designs connected devices that are implanted in the brain to communicate with computers directly through thought. In principle they are designed to help people with paralysis or neurological diseases.
The company wants these implants to be safe and reliable enough to be used as elective surgery: people could pay a few thousand dollars to give their brains computing power.
For Elon Musk, these chips should allow humanity to reach a “symbiosis with Artificial Intelligence”, as he said in 2020 during the company’s annual conference. “We are now confident that the Neuralink device is ready for humans, so the timeline depends on the FDA approval process,” he also said on Twitter, at the end of November, a month after buying the social network. .
Predictions to be taken with caution
But don’t forget that Elon Musk, the head of Twitter, Tesla and SpaceX, can make wild predictions, and not just about the range of Tesla’s electric cars. In July 2019, for example, he estimated that Neuralink could carry out its first tests with individuals in 2020.
So far, coin-sized prototypes have been implanted in animal skulls. Several monkeys are already able to “play” video games or “type” words on a screen, simply by following the movement of the cursor on the screen with their eyes.
At the end of November, the start-up also reported its latest advances in the design of a robotic surgeon and the development of other implants, which will be installed in the spinal cord or in the eyes, to restore mobility or vision.
Other companies are working on mind-controlled computers, such as Synchron, which announced in July 2022 that it had implanted the first brain-machine interface in the United States. “We are building technology capable of directly transmitting the thoughts of people who have lost the ability to move or speak due to illness or injury,” explains Thomas Oxley, founder and CEO of this start-up, in a video on his page Web. Several patients are testing the implant, which has been inserted into blood vessels, so that it can be compounded.