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Elon Musk says his new implant let a monkey play video games with its mind

Published Feb 2nd, 2021 4:58PM EST
mind control games
Image: Orlando Florin Rosu/Adobe

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  • Elon Musk spoke on the new Clubhouse app on Monday and revealed some interesting things that his various companies are working on.
  • Musk says that his company Neuralink, which is working on building computer/brain interfaces, among other things, has successfully implanted a chip in the brain of a monkey.
  • That monkey, Musk claims, can now “play video games with his mind.”

Whether you love him or hate him, you’ve really got to hand it to Elon Musk when it comes to having his hands in so many different forward-thinking initiatives. While he’s best known for being the boss of both SpaceX and Tesla, Musk has founded other companies as well. One of those companies is Neuralink, which is based out of San Francisco and works on brain-computer interfaces.

He’s famously said many things about the future of robotics as well as the idea that man and machine will eventually merge in one way or another. To that end, Neuralink has seemingly made some impressive advancements in its own efforts, though news from the company is pretty rare. This week, however, during a talk on the new social app Clubhouse, Musk pulled back the curtain a bit and revealed that the company is doing work on primates, and one of those primates can now play video games with its mind.

As Bloomberg reports, Musk didn’t offer a ton of details regarding the achievement, but what he did say was enough to get people both thinking and talking. “We have a monkey with a wireless implant in their skull with tiny wires who can play video games with his mind,” Musk said. “You can’t see where the implant is and he’s a happy monkey. We have the nicest monkey facilities in the world. We want them to play mind-Pong with each other. That would be pretty cool.”

Well! That does sound pretty advanced, at least on the surface. Playing a game with your mind is certainly something that most people don’t do on a daily basis, and the fact that the monkey is able to do this wirelessly sounds like an impressive display of what the future might hold for brain-computer interfaces.

That being said, without knowing exactly how the system works, and how accurate it is at translating commands from the monkey’s brain to input for the game, we can’t know how impressive it really is. You can, after all, buy “brain-controlled” games today, even on Amazon. The Mindflex games use a headset to measure brain activity and control objects without actually touching them. The company that makes the games also manufactures a headset that lets you control apps using brain activity in a similar way, and none of this requires an implant.

We’ll likely have to wait a while before we are given a true showcase of what Neuralink’s work can do, but in the meantime, we’ll just be imagining monkeys playing Pong without moving a muscle.