Elon Musk’s Neuralink video shows a monkey with a brain implant playing Pong.

on April 9, 2021

Estimated read time: 2 Minutes

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In a recent Neuralink video, a nine-year-old Macaque is seen using a brain-implant device to play the classic video game.

SpaceX CEO and self-proclaimed “technoking” Elon Musk’s brain-implant start-up, Neuralink, has released a new video of a nine-year-old monkey called “Pager” playing Pong… with the aid of its brain.

Pager learns to manipulate a machine through his brain activity in this three-minute video. According to the narrator, Pager has two Neuralink electrodes implanted in his brain and uses a joystick to interface with the unit for a “tasty banana smoothie, served with a straw.” The devices, which Musk refers to as a “Fitbit for your skull,” were introduced at a press conference in August 2020.

Pager the Macaque playing a video game

The narrator states that Pager’s Neuralink devices in his brain are reading his brain activity, which is then decoded by a computer while he plays the games. Pager continues to play the game even though the team disconnects the joystick and the brain implant helps him to play “MindPong,” as Neuralink has called it.

Musk claimed in a tweet Thursday that the first product from the startup would allow “someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.”

The future also seems to be a long way off.

In a press release, the company said, “MindPong is an initial demonstration of the N1 Link’s potential capabilities.” “However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is just a small part of what our system is designed to do.”

Since its inception in 2016, Neuralink has been relatively radio-abundant. In the last two years, the company has held two press conferences, one of which was led by Musk and detailed the company’s progress. The Neuralink device was introduced in 2019, and steady progress appeared to be made the following year, when the pig implants were unveiled.

The briefings also served as recruitment drives, with Musk encouraging attendees to contact him and sign up. At the end of the Neuralink monkey video, there is a similar call out. However, there is still a scarcity of information: Musk and Neuralink only published one scientific article, in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, in October of this year.

During a Clubhouse meeting in February, Musk teased that Neuralink had wired up a monkey’s brain to play video games. He mentioned, “We have a monkey with a wireless implant in his skull who can play video games with his mind.” We’ve seen it in action now, but we don’t yet have much in the way of scientific evidence.

“Our first aim is to give people with paralysis their digital independence back,” according to a press release on Neuralink’s website. “To connect more easily through text, to pursue their interest on the web, to express their imagination via photography and art, and, yes, to play video games.”

Neuralink has had a strange few days. Max Hodak, the president and co-founder of Neuralink, sent an ambiguous tweet about Jurassic Park earlier this week, which many publications misinterpreted as Neuralink investing in dinosaur DNA growth. Pong-playing monkeys aren’t exactly the same as dinosaur DNA, however… Isn’t it possible that it’s even more impressive? What right do I have to speak?

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