Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Friday announced that his brain-computer interface company Neuralink had installed a coin-sized chip in the brain of a pig, named Gertrude. The billionaire entrepreneur claimed that once developed, the chip could help people with neurological conditions, control smart phones, and even equip its users with a sort of telepathy, CNN reported.
During a Neuralink event live-streamed on YouTube, Musk unveiled three pigs — the pig named Gertrude, who had a chip installed in her brain for two months; one that had been previously implanted with a chip; and another that did not have a chip.
Introducing Gertrude, Elon said, “We have a healthy and happy pig, initially shy but obviously high energy and, you know, kind of loving life, and she’s had the implant for two months.” A display showed the pig’s real time brain activity as it explored its pen, touching different things with its snout. It’s “like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Musk said.
Neuralink’s new brain-computer device had been implanted in the pig’s head and was connected to neurons in its snout. An earlier design unveiled last year, featured a device that sat behind a users’ ear, which was connected to tiny electrode “threads” in the brain, the Guardian reported. However, the chip installed in Gertrude’s did not require a visible ear device and was quite indiscernible.
Musk also stressed on the fact that the device was removable. While it could easily be implanted in the brain by a robot in less than an hour, it could also subsequently be removed without complications, he claimed. He brought forward the second pig, Dorothy, to prove his point further.
“What Dorothy illustrates is that you can put in the Neuralink, remove it, and be healthy, happy and indistinguishable from a normal pig,” Musk said, according to a report by the Guardian.
The primary purpose of the device is to help people suffering from a host of neurological issues, including memory loss, strokes and even addiction, the Verge reported. Like many wearable devices today, the chip will also monitor a user’s health and inform them if anything is out of the ordinary.
But the chip could serve a much bigger purpose. Musk claimed that it could also eventually equip human beings with Artificial Intelligence capabilities. “Such that the future of the world is controlled by the combined will of the people of Earth — I think that that’s obviously gonna be the future that we want,” he said during the livestream.
According to Musk, the tiny brain-computer device had already been designated a Breakthrough Device by the US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency had earlier assigned the same destination to a San Francisco-based company called Synchros, which is designing a wireless device that is installed inside the body through blood vessels, CNN reported.