Elon Musk’s latest project shows first step toward mind-reading brain implant
Elon Musk speaks onstage during the E3 conference in Los Angeles on June 13, 2019.
Charley Gallay | Getty Images
Elon Musk’s ambitious brain-computer start-up Neuralink is reportedly looking to start trials on humans next year. Musk talked about the project at an event that was streamed live — with an eye toward recruiting more talent — late on Tuesday.
Neuralink aligns with a broader trend of technology minds seeking to merge their approaches with the world of in healthcare. Facebook has previously devoted resources to exploring computer systems that people could communicate with simply by thinking.
The start-up envisions drilling holes into the brain with a custom machine to embed thin threads that connect to a tiny processor, which can then be connected to a phone over Bluetooth. Over time it would like to make the installation process as simple as laser-eye surgery.
Musk believes the technology could eventually assist in cognitive capabilities like speech and sight, according to the New York Times. The company is seeking regulatory approval to begin clinical trials as soon as 2020, Bloomberg said.
“It will take a long time, and you’ll see it coming,” Musk said at Tuesday’s event.
Neuralink has operated in relative secrecy ever since Musk, the CEO of Tesla and a co-founder of PayPal, laid out the ideas for the start-up in an lengthy article on Tim Urban’s blog “Wait But Why” in 2017.
“We are aiming to bring something to market that helps with certain severe brain injuries (stroke, cancer lesion, congenital) in about four years,” Musk told Urban. He had a larger ambition, though.
“Everyone who wants to have this AI [artificial intelligence] extension of themselves could have one,” he said.
Last year, one media outlet reported that Neuralink had been looking to conduct tests on animals.
Musk also talked about the project last year during an appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. “I think we’ll have something interesting to announce in a few months … that’s better than anyone thinks is possible,” he said.
Musk, a co-founder of Neuralink, has invested $100 million in the company, the New York Times said.