‘Three Little Pigs’ demonstrate Neuralink’s brain implant

With grudging assistance from a trio of pigs, Neuralink co-founder Elon Musk showed off the startup’s state-of-the-art neuron-reading brain implant and announced that the system has received the Food and Drug Administration’s preliminary blessing as an experimental medical device.

During today’s demonstration at Neuralink’s headquarters in Fremont, Calif., it took a few minutes for wranglers to get the swine into their proper positions for what Musk called his “Three Little Pigs demonstration.”

One of the pigs was in her natural state, and roamed unremarkably around her straw-covered pen. Musk said the second pig had been given a brain implant that was later removed, showing that the operation could be reversed safely.

After some difficulty, a third pig named Gertrude was brought into her pen. As she rooted around in the straw, a sequence of jazzy electronic beeps played through the sound system. Musk said the tones were sounded whenever nerves in the pig’s snout triggered electrical impulses that were picked up by her brain implant.

“The beeps you’re hearing are real-time signals from the Neuralink in Gertrude’s head,” he said.

Eventually, Neuralink’s team plans to place the implants in people, initially to see if those who have become paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries can regain motor functions through thought alone.

Musk said the implant received a Breakthrough Device designation from the FDA last month. That doesn’t yet clear the way for human clinical trials, but it does put Neuralink on the fast track for consultation with the FDA’s experts during preparations for such trials.

Neuralink has received more than $150 million in funding, with roughly two-thirds of that support coming from Musk himself. Today he said the venture had about 100 employees. He expects that number to grow. “Over time, there might be 10,000 or more people at Neuralink,” he said.

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Neuralink takes the wraps off brain probe

Neuralink connection
An illustration shows how electrodes could be implanted in a patient’s brain, with wires running under the scalp to a device surgically implanted behind the ear. (Neuralink Illustration)

Two years after word emerged that tech billionaire Elon Musk was backing a company called Neuralink, the secretive brain-link venture opened up about its progress, including tests of a robotic “sewing machine” that has wired up rat brains with threadlike sensors.

During tonight’s presentation at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Musk and other company executives said they’d seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start wiring up human test subjects as early as next year. And they’re looking for help.

“The main reason for doing this presentation is recruiting,” said Musk, who has reportedly invested more than $100 million in Neuralink and serves as its CEO. The company currently has about 100 employees.

Neuralink aims to develop a brain interface capable of recording deep-brain electrical activity, with the objective of understanding and treating brain disorders as well as preserving and enhancing the human brain.

Musk, who’s the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla as well as the founder of a tunneling venture called the Boring Company, doesn’t think small. Neuralink is no exception.

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Neuralink brain-chip venture mulls tests on rodents

Optogenetic rat
An optical-fiber device shoots pulses of light into the brain of a transgenic rat to study its behavior when specific sets of neurons are stimulated. (Northern Michigan University Photo)

If Neuralink, the brain-chip company backed by billionaire Elon Musk, ever wants to hook up minds and machines, it’ll have to test the technology on animals first.

Today Gizmodo reports that the California-based venture is already looking into animal testing, and may have funded some experiments already.

That assessment is based on a permit for using lab animals that Neuralink received from California state officials, plus a letter sent to San Francisco city planners that referred to building “a small operating room for in vivo testing, and a small room to house rodents.”

Gizmodo says there’s no evidence that Neuralink has gone ahead with the building plans, let alone the animal tests. However, a representative of the University of California at Davis is quoted as confirming that Neuralink is sponsoring research there.

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Elon Musk Q&A: First Mars ship is being built

Kimbal and Elon Musk
Billionaire Elon Musk (in the black hat) and his brother, Kimbal Musk (in the white hat), join in a rendition of “My Little Buttercup” at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. (SXSW via YouTube)

SpaceX is building its first Mars transport vehicle, also known as the BFR, and “making good progress” toward short-hop test flights on Earth by the middle of next year, CEO Elon Musk said today.

“We’re actually building that ship right now,” Musk said at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, during a Q&A with “Westworld” co-creator Jonathan Nolan, a longtime friend.

Today’s conversation ranged over all things Musk — from SpaceX and Tesla, to The Boring Company, Neuralink and the billionaire’s concerns about artificial superintelligence.

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How Elon Musk plans to put chips in brains

Electrode-equipped cap
A researcher wears an electrode-equipped cap in an experiment aimed at demonstrating direct brain control of a computer. (University of Washington / National Science Foundation via YouTube)

Three weeks after word leaked out that billionaire deep-thinker Elon Musk was backing a venture called Neuralink, his detailed vision for linking brains and computers is laid out in a 36,000-word white paper.

Complete with stick figures.

To explain it all for us, Musk turned to Tim Urban, the creator of the Wait But Why website. Urban has crafted similarly illustrated long reads about the SpaceX rocket company and the Tesla electric company, the two ventures that currently occupy most of Musk’s time as CEO.

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Elon Musk backs venture to link brains and AI

Elon Musk
Elon Musk muses at SpaceX’s Mission Control. (SpaceX Photo)

Billionaire brainiac Elon Musk is following up on his interest in (and wariness about) artificial intelligence by backing Neuralink Corp., a company devoted to developing neural implants, The Wall Street Journal says.

Business filings suggest that Neuralink would build devices designed to treat or diagnose neurological conditions, and conceivably augment human cognitive powers.

The Journal quoted entrepreneur-futurist Max Hodak as confirming Musk’s involvement in Neuralink, which Hodak said was still an “embryonic” venture.

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