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Elon Musk unveils chip allowing brain-computer communication

File photo of Elon Musk. Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencies San Francisco Jul 19, 2019, 12.40 PM (IST)

Elon Musk is aiming to connect the human brain with a machine interface. And through his start-up Neuralink, Musk aism to accomplish this "before the end of next year".

Speaking at a conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Musk presented "version one" of his neuron-sized threads and micro processor chips that he claims will help people with severe brain injuries and eventually grow to allow humans to connect with advancing artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

"This, I think, has a very good purpose which is to cure important diseases and ultimately to help secure humanity's future as a civilization relative to A.I. The threads are very tiny and there's a lot of them and they're very carefully placed, and the operation on a per chip basis involves just a two millimetre incision, which is dilated to eight millimetres and then the chip is placed through that. It goes back to being two millimetres and you can basically glue it shut; you don't need a stitch," Musk said.

The implantation of the threads, which Musk said are a tenth the size of a human hair, require the use of a special robot, but a minimally invasive surgery.

Once the threads are implanted into the brain, their connecting chip would wirelessly connect with a device worn outside the body.

"This thing has tremendous potential and we hope to have this aspirationally in a human patient before the end of next year. So this is not far," said Musk.

Neuralink is seeking US Food and Drug Administration approval and while Musk said his preliminary task is to help people with disabilities control a smartphone with thought, the end goal is to keep up with AI.

An early focus of the team is using the technology to address brain diseases and paralysis, but the longer aim is to make implants so safe, reliable and easy that they could be elective surgery options for people seeking to enhance their brains with computing power.

Story highlights

The implantation of the threads, which Musk said are a tenth the size of a human hair, require the use of a special robot