Elon Musk’s Neuralink is yet again making waves in both the mainstream media and scientific community. The latest demonstrationby the cutting-edge technology company entails Pager, a nine-year-old Macaque monkey playing “MindPong.” However, Pager isn’t just a regular monkey—rather, he’s had a Neuralink interface implanted in him, allowing him to play the game literally with only his mind (hence, MindPong).
Neuralink’s brain-machine interface is by no means simple technology. The company is attempting to develop “a fully-implanted, wireless, high-channel count brain-machine interface (BMI) with the goal of enabling people with paralysis to directly use their neural activity to operate computers and mobile devices with speed and ease.”
The video demonstration starts off relatively simply, with Pager playing with a joystick to move a cursor around to targets presented on the screen. As the presenter explains, while Pager is doing this activity, the Neuralink chip is recording Pager’s neuronal activity and feeding the data into a decoder algorithm, allowing the researchers the ability to predict Pager’s “intended hand movements, in real time.” After studying and modeling the relationship between the neuronal activity and the corresponding joystick movements, the presenter states that “we can use the output from the decoder to move the cursor, instead of the joystick,” essentially enabling Pager to control the cursor simply through his neuronal activity (i.e. his thoughts). The video goes on to show a scene where Pager continues to play with the joystick to accurately move around the cursor to the targets—however, now, the joystick is fully disconnected, and the presenter states that at this point, “he’s [Pager] controlling the cursor with entirely decoded neural activity.”