Neuralink video appears to show monkey controlling game paddle simply by thinking

Elon Musk co-founded the San Francisco-based Neuralink in 2016.
Elon Musk co-founded the San Francisco-based Neuralink in 2016. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

The billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup released footage on Friday appearing to show a monkey playing a simple video game after getting implants of the new technology.

The three-minute video by Neuralink shows Pager, a male macaque with chips embedded on each side of its brain, playing Mind Pong. Although he was trained to move a joystick, it is now unplugged. He appears to control the paddle simply by thinking about moving his hand up or down.

“First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.

Neuralink works by recording and decoding electrical signals from the brain using more than 2,000 electrodes implanted in regions of the monkey’s motor cortex that coordinate hand and arm movements, the video’s voiceover said.

“Using these data, we calibrate the decoder by mathematically modeling the relationship between patterns of neural activity and the different joystick movements they produce.“

Co-founded by Musk in 2016, the San Francisco-based Neuralink aims to implant wireless brain computer chips to help cure neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia and spinal cord injuries and fuse humankind with artificial intelligence – though the technology is still in its early stages.

In August 2020, Musk unveiled a pig with a Neuralink chip implant, describing it as “a Fitbit in your skull”. In July 2019, Neuralink showed off a design that involved implanting tiny electrode “threads” into the brain as well as another device behind the ear.

Musk has a history of bringing together diverse experts to develop technology previously limited to academic labs, including for rockets and electrical vehicles, through companies such as Tesla Inc and SpaceX.