Neuralink, the secretive neuroscience startup co-founded by Elon Musk, has been even more quiet than usual these days. That is, until this week when it released a YouTube video of a monkey appearing to play the classic video game Pong with its mind.
The video stars Pager, a 9-year-old macaque monkey who had a Neuralink implanted in either side of his brain roughly six weeks prior, according to the narrator. And apparently, he loves Pong.
Before he learned how to play the game with his mind, though, researchers first conditioned him to use a joystick, rewarding him with “a tasty banana smoothie” through a straw whenever he moved an on-screen cursor to certain lit-up squares on a grid.
While he was maneuvering the joystick and happily slurping up his smoothie, the Neuralink devices in his brain recorded his brain activity, monitoring more than 2,000 electrodes implanted in the region of Pager’s motor cortex that controls hand and arm movements. Researchers could also interface with the devices in real-time by pairing their phones via Bluetooth.
That Neuralink data was then fed into a “decoder algorithm” to train it to predict Pager’s intended hand movements in real-time based on which neurons were firing. Following a short calibration period, the decoder understood Pager’s neural patterns well enough that the joystick was no longer needed. The narrator says that even with it disconnected, Pager continues to move the cursor around using only his mind. He then appears to play a game of so-called MindPong with no joystick in sight.
Search for the video online and check it out for yourself, It looks cool but makes you think what is really the underlying goal for this project?