Elon Musk’s secretive company Neuralink, which is working on a brain-computer interface, has finally revealed some details of the technology behind it.
Neuralink plans to insert highly flexible brain reading “threads” into the brain. These threads will carry a high volume of data from the brain to the computer, according to a white paper credited to “Elon Musk & Neuralink.”
The paper notes that the system could have “as many as 3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads.” These threads are 4 to 6 μm in width, which is thinner than a human hair.
Neuralink is also developing a robot that would embed these threads into the brain by using a laser beam to pierce the skull. The Elon Musk-funded company has already performed early experiments with its brain-computer interface, on a rat.
The rodent in the image has the data transmission system strapped on to its head. Neuralink was able to record the rat’s brain activity through thousands of tiny electrodes surgically implanted in its brain alongside the neurons and synapses.
The Neuralink team says it has achieved a major breakthrough with the system without causing damage to the brain. Once the startup gets approval, the scientists plan to conduct human trials by the second quarter of next year.
If all goes well, this data transmission system will bring a new life to paralyzed patients. They would be able to control computers and smartphones using just their thoughts.
The first surgeries will probably take place under general anesthesia. But Neuralink plans to make the whole procedure so painless that local anesthetics will suffice.
It would be an experience similar to getting Lasik surgery done where one would get the threads painlessly laser-drilled into the brain. Once the hole is plugged with a sensor, you’ll be able to go home.
There are several who believe that Neuralink can achieve this ambitious dream. The startup has already raised more than $150 million from investors, out of which a $100 million comes from its CEO Elon Musk himself.