Elon Musk’s secretive company Neuralink has introduced some of the technology it has been developing to the public for the first time. This week, Mr. Musk gave a big presentation of Neuralink’s research. A white paper credited to “Elon Musk & Neuralink” was released to coincide with the announcement.
Neuralink is a company set up by Mr. Musk to explore ways to connect the human brain to a computer interface. The aim of the firm is to find ways to stimulate the brain in patients with severe neurological conditions to allow them to control computers. Now, the company believes that it has developed devices that can do just that.
During the presentation, three big advances were announced by the company. The first was the development of flexible “threads” roughly 4 to 6 μm in width (considerably thinner than a human hair) to transfer data for the brain-machine interface. The flexible threads would be used to attach more than 3,000 electrodes to a tiny probe, which can then monitor the activity of 1,000 neurons.
Neuralink has also developed a machine that automatically embeds the threads. The machine is described as “a neurosurgical robot capable of inserting six threads (192 electrodes) per minute [automatically]” in the white paper. The paper also notes that the machine is capable of avoiding blood vessels, which may lead to less of an inflammatory response in the brain.
The third big advance announced at the presentation was the development of a custom chip that is better able to read, clean up, and amplify signals from the brain. The next step is to make the connection wireless, as it can only transmit data via a USB-C connection at the moment. For that purpose, the company is designing a sensor to be embedded inside a human body and transmit the data wirelessly. The sensor would connect wirelessly to an external device mounted behind the ear, which would contain the only battery.