Elon Musk trots out pigs in demo of Neuralink brain implants

Elon Musk’s brain-machine interface company Neuralink showcased a pig with the company’s device at an event livestreamed on YouTube. One pig, Gertrude, had a device recording signals from an area of the brain linked to her snout. She’d had the implant for two months at the time of the demonstration.

As Gertrude’s snout touched things, an array of dots and a series of noises indicated when more neurons were firing. Pigs have large parts of their brains that are devoted to the snout, a sensitive sensing instrument.

The design of the Neuralink device has changed since it was unveiled last year, rendering the device itself hard to see on Gertrude. It is now coin-shaped, and meant to sit flush with the skull, rather than having a small module resting near the ear. It’s “like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Musk said. A user can communicate with the device using Bluetooth Low Energy, and would pair with an app on someone’s phone, he said.

As with last year’s event, Musk said the primary purpose of the demonstration was recruiting. (Neuralink presently employs about 100 people, Musk said. Eventually he hopes to employ more than 10,000 people.) Merging human brains with AI is why Musk wants to create the devices. But the device hasn’t yet been tested in humans, though the US Food and Drug Administration designated it a breakthrough device, a program that would allow them to get feedback from the agency throughout the development process, Musk said in the presentation.

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