Elon Musk, whose name we heard mostly with the companies SpaceX and Tesla, of which he is the founder, has just introduced the brain-computer interface of another company, Neuralink. Without exaggeration, Musk and his team left their mark on human history and set the wick to begin a new era.
SpaceX’s re-used rockets and Mars project, Telsa’s electric and autonomous driving systems that created the automotive revolution, and now Neuralink, which connects the human brain to the computer… Another company founded by Elon Musk realized one of the breaking moments in the history of technology and humanity. In Musk’s presentation, a human brain was connected to the computer.
Although efforts have been made for years to connect the human brain to the computer, Neuralink was the first company to embody all this accumulation and bring it to commercial form. In other words, thanks to the technology developed by Neuralink, brain computer interfaces will be among common technologies, just like smartphones. The device, which has a form similar to a hearing aid, will be able to guide the technologies of the future.
Highlights of Neuralink brain-computer interface:
Only 23 mm diameter and 8 mm thickness,
Its battery will last for 1 day,
Each device has 1024 electrodes (promising higher speed than existing technologies),
The cables of the electrodes reaching the brain are thinner than the hair.
It can measure data such as temperature and pressure,
Works with Bluetooth,
Mass production is aimed to be presented to the consumer,
As easy as a laser eye surgery, it is applied in just minutes,
It is not necessary to be anesthetized while the device is being attached,
No risk of infection,
There are no big helmets, long cables and giant sensors,
The device enables all kinds of electronic devices that can be connected to the internet to be controlled with brain signals, that is, thoughts.
However, Neuralink has a major obstacle: clinical tests. They have to prove that this electronic intervention, which is planned to be made on the human body, does not cause any danger. For this reason, the company has started clinical tests these days, when we are entering the last months of 2020. During these investigations, the clinical symptoms that users may encounter will be followed and the device will reach its final form.
Scientific studies carried out until today consisted of only laboratory products, that is, experimentation. Elon Musk’s Neuralink company has developed a simpler device free of giant sensors and tons of cables. Also, the cables used in previous brain-computer interfaces were thick and difficult to insert into the brain. Neuralink’s new generation device uses cables thinner than hair.
The Neuralink device, which can be connected to the brain without any anesthesia, will actually become as widespread as today’s laser eye surgeries. After the hair wires are implanted into the brain, they are connected to the small device on the scalp.
The brain signals transmitted to this small device via cables are converted into electronic signals that all other electronic devices can understand. Thus, brain signals that occur with thought gain a meaningful form also for electronic devices. The only thing left is that computers operate according to these commands.
The Neuralink device is connected to the brain with the following surgical robot:
According to Elon Musk’s explanations, the Neuralink surgical robot removes a small part of the scalp, implants the electrodes of the device into the brain, fuses the device into the skull and stitches the scalp back into place. Moreover, all these operations are performed within minutes without any anesthesia.
The device was tested live on a pig:
One of the subjects on Neuralink’s live broadcast was a pig named Gertrude. After testing on mice last year, the final version of the device was tested on pigs. In the live broadcast, the brain signals of a pig to which the device was connected were transferred to the screens and followed. Elon Musk noted that the pigs from which the device was removed did not show any behavioral changes.
The first goal of the project will be to facilitate the lives of people with disabilities:
Neuralink devices will be produced for people with physical disabilities for any reason. In this way, individuals using the device will be able to wirelessly control any smart prosthesis connected to a computer with their thoughts. With this approach, which will go beyond the control of a smartphone or computer, it can be ensured that disabled individuals have a more comfortable life.
There are also some eerie aspects to Neuralink:
Connecting the brain directly to computers means that thoughts can be read. Just as the social media applications on our smartphones are following our habits, it seems possible to follow the thoughts that do not turn into behavior with this device.
Another concern is the possibility that the connection between the brain and the computer can be made in the opposite direction. In other words, the transformation of electronic signals in the computer into brain signals and the introduction of artificial intelligence … Such a series of possibilities opens the door to a future that has not yet completed even the philosophical and legal discussions.
Neuralink’s smart prostheses can be connected to virtual and augmented reality devices as well as smartphones and computers. In such a case, it will be possible for people to take part in the digital world not only with glasses but also with their brains. After this stage, we open the doors of the simulation theory that we mentioned earlier.
When will Neuralink’s brain-computer interface device be released?
It is difficult to give a clear date on this issue for now. Because the completion of clinical tests may require an unexpected schedule. For this reason, Elon Musk and his team were cautious and only shared historical predictions.