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Elon Musk expects to start human clinical trials for his Neuralink wireless device in six months.
Using brain chips, the company wants to enable disabled patients to move and communicate again. As it seeks U.S. regulatory approval for clinical trials in people, Neuralink has been testing on animals in San Francisco and Texas.
Musk said the company wants “to be extremely careful and certain” the chip “will work well before putting a device into a human.”
“But,” he said, “we’ve submitted, I think, most of our paperwork to the FDA, and probably in about six months, we should be able to upload Neuralink in a human.”
Neuralink is a small device with electrode-studded wires. In addition to making refinements to the implant, the company has been working on a surgical robot that will remove a piece of the skull to insert the chip into the patient’s brain. Musk indicated in Wednesday’s presentation that Neuralink is working with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on human trial approvals.
Along with the brain-computer interface, Musk revealed two significant products. Neuralink is also developing a spinal cord implant with the potential to help paralyzed people regain movement and ocular implants that could help the visually impaired see again.
Musk believes that humans can only compete with artificial intelligence (AI) via augmentations that turn us into organic computers. Neuralink’s signature device is a brain-computer interface (BCI) that could also help patients suffering from ALS or stroke victims use their minds to communicate. He demonstrated this Wednesday with an implanted monkey interfacing with a computer. Neuralink’s device reads the implantee’s neuronal spikes and translates them into machine-readable information.
Elon Musk hopes to eventually normalize the device so that humans regularly use it to communicate with machines.