Elon Musk Shares Neuralink Video of Monkey Telepathically Playing Video Game

Elon Musk has released footage of a monkey telepathically playing a video game after being implanted with his Neuralink technology.

The billionaire behind Tesla and SpaceX has long claimed the human-machine interface project could help to unlock the power of the human brain, helping people with paralysis or neural conditions. It now appears that vision is slowly becoming a reality.

"A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!" Musk said in a tweet on Friday alongside footage from a recent scientific test.

The trial was conducted on a nine-year-old macaque named Pager, who had a Neuralink in each side of his brain about six weeks ago. A YouTube video showed the monkey playing the game Pong at various levels of difficulty—using his mind alone.

A narration over the clip said: "It's not magic. The reason Neuralink works is because it is recording and decoding electrical signals from the brain."

In a series of tweets on Friday (April 9, 2021), Musk said the first Neuralink product will let a human with paralysis use a smartphone with their mind "faster than someone using thumbs." And future updates to the technology will go even further, he asserted.

"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," Musk wrote. The posts very quickly attracted thousands of shares.

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

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 9, 2021

According to the video demonstration, the monkey learned to interact with a computer in exchange for a banana smoothie administered through a straw on the machine.

Meanwhile, a scientist involved in the experiment was seen pairing a smartphone to the implanted Neuralinks—in the same way a device pairs to a bluetooth speaker.

The team said the "links" are able to record from more than 2,000 electrodes to transmit from regions of the monkey's motor cortex, which coordinate hand and arm movements. Neurons from those regions show intended movements. Some neurons will be active when the monkey moves his hand up, and others when he moves it to the side. Activity is fed into a "decoder algorithm" that predicts his movements in real time.

The Neuralink team said the decoder was calibrated by recording neural activity that was taking place as the monkey played a basic video game: using a joystick to move a dot into a variety of moving colored targets that would show up across a screen.

As the monkey is playing, his neuron activity is fed into the computer, which models the relationship between the activity and the movements of the physical joystick. But it's the next step—removing the joystick—that produces the telepathic results.

"After only a few minutes of calibration, we can use the output from the decoder to move the cursor instead of the joystick," the narrator said in the video.

"Pager still moves the joystick out of habit, but as you can see it is unplugged, he is controlling the cursor entirely with decoded neural activity," they added.

For human trials—a date for which has not been released—the goal is to let a paralyzed person use their brain activity alone to control a device. As they can't use a physical joystick, calibration will be done by imagining hand movements to targets.

When asked on Twitter if it could help the visually impaired, Musk tweeted: "Absolutely doable. Possibly as soon as Neuralink device version 2, highly likely by version 3."