Elon Musk’s brain-implant startup Neuralink released a video showing a monkey using its device to play “Pong” with its mind.
Neuralink called the experiment an “initial demonstration of the potential capabilities” of its high-tech brain chips — though it’s unclear whether the results will be peer-reviewed by scientists or published in an academic journal.
The 9-year-old macaque named Pager had two of Neuralink’s devices planted in his brain about six weeks before the company shot the three-and-a-half-minute video.
Pager learned to interact with a computer while sucking a banana smoothie through a straw as a reward, according to the clip. As he used a joystick to move a cursor to a target on the screen, a devices recorded activity from the neurons responsible for his hand movements and streamed them to a computer algorithm that decoded them, Neuralink says.
After training the algorithm, Pager was able to ditch the joystick and play “mind Pong” just by thinking about his hand moving up or down, according to the video.
Musk — who teased Neuralink’s monkey experiments in February — marveled at his company’s achievement after the video was released Thursday.
“A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!” the billionaire tech tycoon said on Twitter.
Neuralink hopes to eventually use its brain chips to let paralyzed people interact with computers or smartphones using only their brain activity. A Silicon Valley company called Synchron said in October that it accomplished such tasks with a device implanted through the blood vessels.
Later versions of Neuralink’s chip could link devices planted in the brain to others elsewhere in the body, “thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again,” Musk claimed.
“The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal,” he tweeted.
But the test drew fire from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which said monkeys in neuroscience experiments are often kept hungry or thirsty to coerce them into cooperating.
“Experiments similar to Neuralink’s have been done many times before, always at the expense of animals whose lives have been stolen, and nothing has come of it,” PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. “Neuralink would break real scientific ground if its research left animals out and actually helped humans.”
Pager isn’t the only critter Neuralink has used to test its gadgets. The company previously installed a prototype in a pig named Gertrude to demonstrate its ability to transmit neural signals.