The goal behind Neuralink’s first public project is to eventually implant some sort of device in people who have been paralyzed that will allow them to control their phones and computers in a way that resembles telepathy. The first technological breakthrough to be reported on inside the air-tight Neuralink labs involves flexible “threads” that are thinner than a human hair and less likely to cause neurological damage than the brain-machine implants currently on the market, according to The Verge.
The system can include “as many as 3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads,” according to a white paper credited to “Elon Musk & Neuralink.” The company is also developing a machine that automatically imbeds the threads.
Musk unveiled all this new technology at a Neuralink launch event, which he admitted was primarily intended to inspire bright minds to apply and work for the pioneering company. After the team unveiled the plans to advance brain implant technology, however, the event became as much of a declaration of technological ambition as it was a simple recruiting tool.
If the technology itself measures up to hopes and expectations surrounding it, it will be a major advance in implants. Utah Array, for instance, is a rather common choice for neurological implants, but it uses stiff needles that only allow up to 128 electrode channels and can cause damage as the brain shifts in the skull. Neuralink is likely to edge them out in terms of long-term functionality.
The company does, however, have quite a few things to cross off before they change the implants game. It’s not as easy to implant as the Utah Array, for one, but the central issue is the speed at which the human brain can communicate with the machine. There is also the problem of making sure such an invasive technology is kosher on the legislative side.
“There is a whole FDA process we have to go through,” he added, “we haven’t done that yet.” Matthew MacDougall, head surgeon at Neuralink who went on to express that his team hoped the implant process would one day be “something more like Lasik” eye surgery, in which a physician can correct vision without putting the patient to sleep.
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