Neuralink: what does Elon Musk’s company do?


The presentation that Elon Musk will make on the progress of his company Neuralink, this Friday (28), starts at 19h (Brasília time) via streaming. He has already warned that there will be a question and answer session – just post your question on Twitter.

Don’t know what to ask? Below is a summary that we made for you to understand what the least known of Elon Musk’s companies does (spoiler alert: involves a symbiosis between human beings and Artificial Intelligence without the mediation of a computer, using chips inserted inside the user’s head) .

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What is Neuralink and what does it do?

1. The scientific approach

In August last year, Elon Musk published, in the bioXiv scientific articles repository, what would be his “neural link”: “The brain-machine interfaces (BMI) are promising for the restoration of sensory, motor function and the treatment of disorders neurological […]. ”

In the article, Musk described “[…] the first steps of Neuralink towards a scalable, high-bandwidth Brain Computer Interface (BMI) system. We built matrices with up to 3,072 electrodes each, distributed in 96 wires, and a neurosurgical robot capable of inserting 6 wires (192 electrodes) per minute. Each wire can be inserted individually into the brain with micron precision to avoid the surface vasculature and reach specific brain regions […] ”.

2. What Neuralink produces

The N1 chip is hermetically encapsulated and fitted in an 8 mm x 0.25 mm cylinder. Each chip measures 4 mm x 4 mm and uses 1,024 electrodes with reading and writing capabilities.

3. How the chips are implanted

The probes used are 5 microns thick (3 less than a red blood cell and 95 less than a hair).

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The incision must be 2 mm, extensible to 8 mm; the surgery would take less than an hour.

4. The parts of the system

Each patient would receive 3 N1 chips in the motor areas and 1 in the somatic sensory cortex, all connected to an inductive coil behind the ear, connected to the battery and to the Bluetooth system above the skin.

There is no information about an Android version (but Musk has already pointed out the possibility of an own app store in the future).

5. How the system would be used

So that “you don’t have wires coming out of your ear,” an iOS app was developed. “It’s Bluetooth for your phone,” said Musk.

6. The first tests

The chip prototype evolved (from right to left):

The first results came from the implantation of N1 in animals (according to Musk, a monkey controlled a computer with his brain).

7. The human-machine interface

According to Elon Musk, clinical trials should take place before the end of 2021, with quadriplegic patients. As the approval of the American regulatory agencies is necessary, people without disabilities will only have access to the Neuralink chip in a decade.



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