At a live-streamed event on Wednesday evening, Elon Musk announced that Neuralink Corp’s coin-sized brain chip could be implanted in human heads for clinical trials within the next six months.
“We want to be extremely careful and certain that it will work well before putting a device into a human, but we’ve submitted, I think, most of our paperwork to the FDA, and probably in about six months, we should be able to upload Neuralink in a human,” Musk said during the event at the company’s headquarters in Fremont, California.
Neuralink’s brain-computer interface (BCI) is a small chip implanted in a human’s head to allow a person suffering from a debilitating condition, such as the aftereffects of a stroke or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), to communicate with their thoughts.
Previously, Musk had promised human trials would begin in 2020, then 2022, and now the target appears sometime in the first half of 2023. He also revealed two other BCIs that could one day be attached to the spinal cord and restore movement in someone with paralysis.
“As miraculous as that may sound, we are confident that it is possible to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a severed spinal cord,” the billionaire co-founder said.
One of the presentation’s highlights was a video of a monkey “telepathically typing” on a screen with a BCI implant.
“To be clear, he’s not actually using a keyboard … He’s moving the cursor with his mind to the highlighted key. Now technically, he can’t actually spell. So I don’t wanna oversell this thing, because that’s the next version.”
BCI technology has been studied in academia for decades. Last year, European research announced a person who has ALS had regained his ability to communicate after a brain chip was installed in his head. And Brown University recently said, “using a brain-computer interface, a clinical trial participant was able to create text on a computer at a rate of 90 characters per minute just by thinking about the movements involved in writing by hand.”
Musk’s entry into the space in 2016 has spurred increased investments via venture capitalists into startups pushing this cyborg technology forward.