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Elon Musk Announces Human Trial for Neuralink New BCI Chip

UTC by Ibukun Ogundare · 3 min read
Elon Musk Announces Human Trial for Neuralink New BCI Chip
Photo: Unsplash

Elon Musk said the Neuralink device called N1 would provide solutions to two body-impaired challenges, namely blindness, and quadriplegia.

During a “show-and-tell” event organized by Neuralink, Elon Musk announced the next phase of development for the N1 brain-computer interface (BCI) chip. The world’s most famous and multi-serving executive showed the audience how a brain implant controls a monkey. For the past five years, Neuralink has been conducting such tests on animals. The implant-proposing startup hopes to begin human trials in the next six months with approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to Elon Musk, the event was organized by Neuralink to recruit more people for the startup firm. The world’s richest man who runs Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), SpaceX, and Twitter said:

“A lot of the time people think that they couldn’t really work at Neuralink because they don’t know anything about biology or how the brain works.The thing we really want to emphasize here is that you don’t need to because when you break down the skills that are needed to make Neuralink work, it’s actually many of the same skills that are required to make a smartwatch or modern phone work.”

Elon Musk, Others, Speak on Neuralink BCI Implanted Chip

Elon Musk said the Neuralink device called N1 would provide solutions to two body-impaired challenges, namely blindness, and quadriplegia. That is, the N1 chip will help the blind and the paralyzed create an image and perform mind typing in their respective brains. The chip will be implanted via robotic surgery. Christine Odabashian, the lead of the surgery engineering team, noted that the scarcity of neurosurgeons forced Neuralink to figure out how one neurosurgeon would oversee the procedure. The live demonstration shows that the brain communicates and charges wirelessly.

Dan Adam, a Neuralink’s researcher who is currently working on converting the camera data into brain-compatible information for the virtual cortex, said:

“Our goal will be to turn the lights on for someone who’s spent decades living in the dark…The first-generation Neuralink technology uses 1,024 electrodes, but Neuralink showed off next-generation models with more than 16,000 electrodes…If you put a device on both sides of your visual cortex, that would give you 32,000 points of light to make an image in someone who’s blind.”

Although activists kicked against the use of animals for Neuralink’s lab test, the startup revealed that a monkey died. In a recent statement by Elon Musk, he promised to be more cautious during human trials.

Neuralink is not the first startup to introduce the brain-machine interface (BMI) or brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. Top researchers are working at startups like  BlackRock Neurotech, Synchron, and Paradromics. Interestingly, another startup named Nuro uses an approach that requires no surgery. Recently, Synchron successfully implanted its device in a patient after being cleared for human trial by FDA in 2021. Elon Musk reportedly reached out to Synchron over a potential investment after being frustrated about the progress of Neuralink employees.

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