The idea of connecting our brains to computer systems is a staple of science-fiction films like The Matrix – but it could become a reality next year, reports Yahoo.
Elon Musk’s start-up Neuralink aims to install brain chips in up to 11 people in 2024, with thousands of volunteers having lined up to take part.
Research by Foresight Factory suggests that more than a third of consumers (35%) would be willing to have such a chip implanted, to connect directly to computer systems.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Neuralink to begin human trials, after initially refusing it.
Neuralink, which launched in 2016, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain and has already implanted chips successfully in mice, pigs, and monkeys.
The startup is working on flexible threads, far thinner than human hair, designed to be implanted into the brain by a large robot to ‘read’ brain activity.
Musk has made various claims for what Neuralink may one day be able to do – from ‘telepathic’ communication to wearers being able to operate bionic limbs based on Tesla’s Optimus robot.
A report by one of Musk’s biographers, Ashlee Vance, recently described the procedure, with a surgeon removing a chunk of the skull before a robot weaves in electrodes and super-thin wires into the brain.
A separate unit sits behind the ear, with wires running directly into the wearer’s brain.
Musk reportedly urged the team to speed up progress in the wake of a breakthrough by rival Synchron, one of whose patients sent a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, using only his mind earlier this year.
What will happen in the first human trial?
The first trial will focus on people with quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
In the trial, Neuralink hopes to give people the ability to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.
How does Neuralink work and what can it treat?
Neuralink’s device has a chip that processes and transmits neural signals from implants in the brain to a unit behind the ear – and from there to devices like computers and phones.
The company hopes that a person can control a mouse, keyboard, or other computer functions such as text messaging with their thoughts.
Neuralink also believes its device will eventually restore neural activity inside the body, allowing those with spinal cord injuries to move limbs.
The San Francisco and Austin-based firm also aspires to cure neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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