Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface company, Neuralink, recently shared a groundbreaking video showcasing the first human patient using the brain implant to control a mouse cursor and play chess. The patient, 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh, who was paralyzed below the shoulders after a diving accident eight years ago, described the experience as akin to using the Force from the Star Wars franchise.

In the video, Arbaugh effortlessly controls the mouse cursor with his mind, demonstrating the potential of the Neuralink implant. He mentioned that the implant also allowed him to play the video game Civilization VI for eight hours straight, although he had to pause to charge the device. Elon Musk praised the video, equating Arbaugh’s control to telepathy.

Neuralink received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct in-human clinical trials last year. The company subsequently announced its search for test subjects for a six-year trial. This marks a significant milestone for Neuralink, as it is the first time footage of a human using its brain implant has been shared with the public. Musk’s earlier announcement in January noted the successful implantation of the technology in the first trial participant.

While the concept of controlling devices through brain-computer interfaces is not entirely new, Neuralink sets itself apart by transmitting data wirelessly. This contrasts with earlier technologies that relied on wired connections protruding through the skin. The ability of Arbaugh to hold a conversation while maneuvering the cursor showcases the advancements made by Neuralink in the field.

Despite Neuralink’s success, other companies like BlackRock, Synchron, Paradromics, and Precision Neuroscience are also working on similar brain implants. Synchron’s less-invasive approach, however, may not capture as much neural data as Neuralink. Critics have raised concerns about Neuralink’s lack of transparency in its trials, questioning the number of subjects and outcomes being assessed. The company’s past experiments on monkeys have also faced criticism due to reports of complications leading to the euthanasia of animals involved.

While Neuralink is currently positioned as an assistive technology, Musk envisions a future where the implant could enhance the capabilities of perfectly healthy individuals. However, the realization of this vision is still distant.

The recent video demonstration by Neuralink showcasing a paralyzed individual controlling a mouse cursor through a brain implant is undeniably impressive. It highlights the significant advancements made in the field of brain-computer interfaces. As the company continues its trials and faces competition from other players in the market, the future of Neuralink and its potential impact on human augmentation remains to be seen.


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