The man behind the Tesla electric car and the SpaceX commercial space venture finally revealed his long discussed brain to computer interface called Neuralink.
Musk unveiled the device during a live stream event watched around the world late night on Tuesday, July 16.
During his presentation, Musk framed the innovation as a way to make it easier for humans to merge with artificial intelligence.
Before unveiling the version one model of the device, Musk said he wants the process to eventually become as easy as LASIK eye surgery.
At one point, Musk even quipped, “I feel like I’m in Transcendence…Actually, I was in the movie Transcendence.” If you’re not aware of the movie, it was a 2014 science fiction film starring Johnny Depp that explored the idea of a human mind being merged with computer intelligence.
Next he showed off the instrument that will be used to penetrate the skull to establish a connection via electrode insertion via a robotic implant mechanism.
He said the operation requires a two millimeter insertion, no post-surgery stitch is needed, and no wires will protrude from the user’s head. Instead, the Neuralink will connect to an external device wirelessly.
“We hope to have this in a human patient by the end of next year,” said Musk.
Max Hodak, the president of Neuralink then took the stage to continue the presentation and explain how a brain-machine interface (BMI) works.
Hodak says that two and a half years ago, when they started work on the project, the goal was to create a mechanism that was completely wireless, had “years to decade” lifetime in terms of usability, had practical bandwidth for data transmission, and was usable at home and didn’t require medical assistance.
The first device is called the N1 Sensor. He then showed off what the device, which is smaller than a penny, looked like.
The control mechanism for the unit connects to four internal sensors, sits behind the ear, contains a Bluetooth radio and a battery. Amazingly, the device will be controlled by an iPhone app.
Initially, the device will be used to control your smartphone, Bluetooth keyboard or mouse. The first clinical human study is planned for 2020.
What may be interesting to science historians is that Musk made the announcement on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, which offers a fascinating symmetry between mankind’s past and future advancements in science.
Here’s a link to a video of the full presentation. Start at the 1 hour 29 minute mark.
Cover image via Neuralink