Neuralink monkey is able to play ping pong amazingly
- By StartupStory | April 15, 2021
Neuralink Corporation, a neurotechnology company, founded by Elon Musk, Max Hodak, Ben Rapoport, Dongjin Seo, Paul Merolla, Philip Sabes, Tim Gardner, Tim Hanson and Vanessa Tolosa. They are experts in areas such as neuroscience, biochemistry and robotics, developing implantable brain-machine interfaces. The company’s headquarters are in San Francisco; it was started in 2016 and was first publicly reported in March 2017. Neuralink with a team of exceptionally talented people, creating the future of brain interfaces by building devices now that will help people with paralysis and inventing new technologies that will expand our abilities, our community, and our world.
Since its founding, the company has hired several high-profile neuroscientists from various universities. By July 2019, it had received $158 million in funding, and of which $100 million was from Elon Musk and was employing a staff of 90 employees. At that time, Neuralink announced that it was working on a “sewing machine-like” device capable of implanting fragile threads into the brain and demonstrated a system that reads information from a lab rat via 1,500 electrodes.
Elon Musk defined the neural lace as a digital layer above the cortex that would not necessarily imply extensive surgical insertion but ideally an implant through a vein or artery. He also explained that the long-term goal is to achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence, which he perceives as an existential threat to humanity if it goes unchecked.
Gizmodo reported in 2018 that Neuralink remained highly secretive about its work, although public records showed that it had sought to open an animal testing facility in San Francisco; it subsequently started to research at the University of California, Davis. In 2019, during a live presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, the Neuralink team revealed to the public the technology of the first prototype they had been working on. It is a system that involves ultra-thin probes that will be inserted into the brain. This neurosurgical robot will perform the operations and a high-density electronic system capable of processing information from neurons. It is based on technology developed at UCSF and UC Berkeley.
The probes, composed chiefly of polyimide, a biocompatible material with a thin gold or platinum conductor, are inserted into the brain through an automated process performed by a surgical robot. Each probe consists of an area of wires that contains electrodes capable of locating electrical signals in the brain and a sensory area where the wire interacts with an electronic system that allows amplification and acquisition of the brain signal. Each probe contains 48 or 96 wires, each containing 32 independent electrodes, making a system of up to 3072 electrodes per formation.
Neuralink says they have developed a robot capable of rapidly inserting many flexible probes into the brain, which may avoid the problems of tissue damage and longevity associated with larger and more rigid probes. This robot has an insertion head with a 40 μm diameter needle made of tungsten-rhenium designed to attach to the insertion loops, transport and insert individual inquiries, and penetrate the meninges and tissue cerebral. The robot is capable of inserting up to six searches per minute.
Neuralink has developed an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) to create a 1,536-channel recording system. This system consists of 256 amplifiers capable of being individually programmed (“analog pixels”), analog-to-chip converters within the chip (“ADCs”) and peripheral circuit control to serialize the digitized information obtained. It aims to convert data received from neurons into an understandable binary code in order to achieve a greater understanding of brain function and the ability to stimulate these neurons back. Currently, electrodes are still too big to record the firing of individual neurons so that they can record only the firing of a group of neurons; Neuralink representatives believe this issue might get mitigated algorithmically, but it’s computationally expensive and does not produce exact results.
As of 2020, Neuralink is headquartered in San Francisco’s Mission District, sharing the Pioneer building with OpenAI, another company co-founded by Musk. Jared Birchall, the head of Musk’s family office, was listed as CEO, CFO and president of Neuralink in 2018. As of September 2018, Musk was the majority owner of Neuralink but did not hold an executive position. By August 2020, only three of the eight founding scientists remained at the company, according to an article by Stat News which reported that Neuralink had seen years of internal conflict in which rushed timelines have clashed with the slow and incremental pace of science.
On April 9, 2021, Neuralink claimed to have demonstrated a monkey playing the game “Pong” using the Neuralink implant. And some scientists noted that similar technology had existed since 2002 when a research group first demonstrated a monkey moving a computer cursor with neural signals.