Last year (Aug 2021), Neuralink’s streamed a demonstration of its chip embedded into a pig, allowing them to monitor the neural activity of the animal and even create a sound effect whenever their snout touched something. It was the first major public demonstration of what the company was working on. However, if that wasn’t cool enough for you, how about a Pong-playing monkey?
The company’s latest demonstration features a macaque monkey (named Pager) that has the Neuralink implant. the implant itself doesn’t magically teach him how to play Pong suddenly though. Instead, Pager was trained by the team on how to use a simple joystick interface. When he followed the randomly appearing square with a ball on the screen, he would be rewarded with a banana mix through a metal straw.
Meanwhile, the Neuralink implant monitors the monkey’s activities as he interacts with the game and learns the patterns within the brain that are controlling the movements of his body (ie, hand on the joystick). Eventually, the computer is able to map these signals and allow the monkey to play the game without any movement from his hands at all. Instead, his brain is doing all the work.
This is a massively successful demonstration as it shows that the company is clearly making waves in its trials. It hopes to one day use this technology to assist physically challenged individuals with being able to control computers and other technologies with their minds. A very large step into the future (and computers being able to read your mind).
Given, it does come at a sacrifice. It involves the implant of a chip the size of a US quarter. It makes its way into your brain by making an incision, removing a small piece of your skull, and implanting the chip in its place. A process Neuralink hopes to be automated using robotics.
So it does require some sturdy cahones on your part, as not everyone would be willing to have a hole drilled into their skull. Given, not everyone is faced with such physical challenges. Individuals who would benefit from this will likely have a completely different mindset about the weight of such sacrifices as this could open a whole new world of interaction to them.
Clearly, eventually, this is tech will trickle into options that will be targeted at the masses (just like anything else). Next thing you know, we will be facing scenarios you’d normally find in movies or TV, like Minority Report or Altered Carbon. For now, though, the technology is filled with a philanthropic purpose.