Neuralink, the Elon Musk startup that hopes to get our brains to link directly to computers, on Wednesday demonstrated how a monkey named Sake could type by using just its mind to control a virtual keyboard.
The monkey didn’t know how to spell, but it could track the keys Neuralink spotlighted in yellow on the screen. An N1 chip, embedded in the monkey’s skull, registered the brain activity to control how the monkey moved a cursor around the screen.
It’s a step beyond the Mind Pong game Neuralink showed in 2021, but so far it still only listens to neural activity. Ultimately, the company’s plan is to send signals to the brain too. That’ll enable the two first medical uses cases: helping the blind to see and helping quadriplegics to walk.
“We’re confident someone who has no other interface to the outside world would be better to control their phone better than someone who has working hands,” Musk said at Neuralink’s “show and tell” event. “Sake the monkey is moving the mouse cursor using just his mind.”
Musk has some cred when it comes to revolutionary tech, with his electric-vehicle company Tesla profoundly changing cars and his SpaceX outfit transforming space access with reusable rockets. But his reputation as a tech genius has taken a beating with the chaos at Twitter after his $44 billion acquisition. Musk’s Boring Company, which aims to revamp auto transportation with tunnels, also hasn’t yet lived up to its promises.
Neuralink doesn’t look any easier than social networking. Connecting computer hardware to our own wetware comes with enormous technical, regulatory and ethical challenges.