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Neuralink Progress update summer 2020

Watch The Neuralink Progress Update Summer 2020 (as it happened)

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Joins us for the live broadcast of Elon Musk’s Neuralink demonstration.

  • Elon Musk promises demo of working Neuralink device.
  • The AI Brain Chip could potentially revolutionise treatments of neurological conditions.
  • The chip could become the world’s first publicly available computer-brain interface.

3.25 PM PST: Over 100,000 people are tuned in and eagerly awaiting for the live broadcast to start, expected around 3.30pm PST.

(Expectations are high, to say the least.)

3.40PM PST: Live Broadcast starts with Elon claiming “Can’t wait to show you what we got, it’s going to blow your mind”. The goal of Neuralink is to “solve problems with the brain and spine”, from memory loss, blindness and paralysis to memory loss, depression and anxiety. Current technology such as the Utah Array has only 100 channels per array and requires a medical expert to use, Neuralink promises to revolutionise the field “by orders of magnitude” with a high bandwidth device that can read and write directly to the brain.

3.48PM PST: The new chip is shown off, being much smaller than the previous iteration and less invasive from early looks. At 23mm x 8mm, it offers 1024 channels per link, with similar features “you would expect from a smart watch”, including inductive charging, wireless connection and a host of sensors.

3.50PM PST: The surgical robot is showcased, the robot will be responsible for the entire surgery which should take less than 1 hour with “people being able to come in for surgery and go to work after”. Elon claims the robot is fully functioning and has been used in all procedures to date.

3.52PM PST: Does it work? The 3 little pigs demonstration (3 actual live pigs) showcases implants already done on 3 test subjects. One has had the implant placed and removed, showcasing future users could remove the implant is they wished to. The age old saying of never work with children or animals proves to be true once again as Gertrud the pig, didn’t seem to get her stage notes before the show.

3.56PM PST: Gertrude finally decides to get involved. The animal has had the Neuralink implant for over 2 months and looks healthy and happy. The chip is shown reading live brain activity which can be used to predict the movement of the pigs limbs, opening up possibilities to treat paralysis.

4.00PM PST: Brain writing capabilities, the chip is able to read and write across all 1024 channels, with a wireless range of 4m. The FDA has given Neuralink Breakthrough Device designation, with first human implementation coming soon, pending further approvals and safety tests. Elon claims safety will be the “top priority” and will exceed FDA safety guidelines.

4.03PM PST: Recruiting call: The purpose of the demo is to recruit the best talent in the fields of materials, electronics, biology, robotics, surgery, software development, neuroscience and animal care. Applicants can send their details to [email protected]

4.05PM PST: Live Q&A with Neuralink answering questions from the public.

4.10PM PST: Low hanging fruit, or better explained, low bandwidth signals including motions, means the Neuralink team is confident early breakthroughs helping people with paralysis are very likely early use cases. “Could the device be used for gaming?” “Definitely, a good measure stick would be if a quadriplegic can play StarCraft”.

4:15PM PST: What are the biggest challenges to overcome for Neurolink to achieve its objective? Material science, specifically lowering the threads to sub micron size as well as improving the surgical implementation.

4:25PM PST: What are the likely first use applications for Neuralink? Quadriplegia, paralysis and spinal damage patients will be the first to use the device. Elon adds that a second device could be installed on the spine (below the severed cord) and could potentially restore ability to walk naturally by passing signals to/from the brain.

4.30PM PST: “Are there plans to attempt to “download” memories to access later, or for others to view/experience? Elon says yes, admitting this is sounding more and more like an episode of Black Mirror.

4.35PM PST: What about security? What precautions are being taken? “Privacy and security is a top priority at Neuralink” Data going to/from brain will be encrypted and authenticated. Neuralink team claims since they are developing both the hardware and software, they have a unique ability to ensure failsafes are deeply embedded in the chip.

4.40PM PST: What will be the cost of the implant? The plan is to get the surgery down to costs similar to lasek eye surgery, possibly several thousand dollars US. The device on the other hand should be quite low cost with mass production.

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