In early February, Elon Musk announced that his Neuralink project had enabled a monkey successfully play video games with his mind. Following this claim, the company has now released a video of a 9-year-old macaque named Pager using a wireless brain-machine interface (BMI) to play the classic game of pong. As explained in the video’s narrator, the Neuralink device implanted in the brain of the first pager six weeks before the footer shot. Initially, the monkey trained to control a cursor on a screen by jokingly running a joystick for a tasteful reward, while the implant recorded the activity of his brain.
Featuring 1,024 electrodes, the device monitors spikes in electrical impulses produced by neurons in the pager’s motor cortex, a part of the brain responsible for planning and performing movements. More precisely, the neural link tied to the arm and arm regions of the animal’s motor cortex, enabling it to produce a detailed picture of the patterns of activity involved in the movement of the joystick. By decoding this neural activity using specialized algorithms, the device has finally learned to predict the direction and speed of pagers upcoming or intended hand movements.
When the joystick plugged in, the Neuralink tracked the monkey’s nervous activity and transmitted the data to a decoding system that continuously generated motion-related motion on the screen. In the end, Pager was only able to play pong using his own mind, and this proved to be a great addition to the classic game. The release of this video coincides with some disturbing news about the treatment of animals in certain product testing facilities and undoubtedly started discussions about the policy of conducting such tests on monkeys.
Previously, Neuralink had replaced the brains of rats and pigs, although Musk insisted that animals used as humanely as possible. At a meeting at Clubhouse earlier this year, he explained that Pager was “perfectly happy” and “not uncomfortable.” He goes on to claim, “When [the person in the U.S. Department of Agriculture] toured our monkey facilities, he said it was the most beautiful monkey facility he had seen in his entire career.” In a blog post, Neuralink explained that the implant ultimately made for human use. “Our first goal is to give paralyzed people back their digital freedom: to communicate more easily through text, to follow their curiosity on the web, to express their creativity through photography and art, and, yes, to play video games,” it said.
“Next, we intend to use the link to help improve the lives of people with neurological disorders and other disabilities. For example, for people with paralysis, the link may also used to restore physical mobility.” “To achieve this, we will use the link to read signals to the brain and use it to stimulate the body’s nerves and muscles, allowing the person to regain control of their own organs.”