Elon Musk’s startup Neuralink said Thursday it has approval from US regulators to test its brain implants on humans.
Neuralink said the Food and Drug Administration’s approval for the first human clinical trial is an “important first step” for its technology, which is designed to allow the brain to interact directly with computers.
“We are excited to share that we have received FDA approval to launch our first human clinical trial,” Neuralink, which is run by Musk, said in a tweet.
According to Neuralink, enrollment in the clinical trial is not yet open.
The goal of the Neuralink implants is to allow the human brain to communicate with computers directly, Musk said during the startup’s presentation in December.
“We’ve been working hard to get ready for our first human (implant), and obviously we want to be very careful and make sure it’s going to work well before we put the device in a person,” he said at the time.
There were coin-sized Neuralink prototypes implanted in the skulls of monkeysshowed startup demonstrations.
At the Neuralink presentation, several monkeys were shown “playing” simple video games or moving a cursor on the screen through their Neuralink implant.
The technology has also been tested on pigs.
An early demonstration showed that with the help of a robotic surgeon, a piece of skull is replaced with a Neuralink disk and its thin wires are strategically inserted into the brain.
According to Musk, the drive records neural activity by transmitting the information via a shared Bluetooth wireless signal to a device such as a smartphone.
“It actually fits very well in your skull,” Musk said during a preview presentation.
“It could be under your hair and you wouldn’t know.”
Musk said that the company will try to use implants to restore vision and movement in man who have lost such abilities.
“Originally, we would allow someone who can barely control their muscles … and let them operate the phone faster than someone whose hands work,” he said.
“As strange as it sounds, we are confident that it is possible to restore the full functionality of the body of a person whose spinal cord has been severed,” he said.
Beyond the potential to treat neurological diseases, Musk’s ultimate goal is to make sure artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t overwhelm humans intellectually, he said.
Other companies are working on similar systems enable syncwhich announced in July that it had implanted the first human-brain-machine interface in the US.
Members of the Neuralink team shared a “wish list” that ranged from technologies that would restore mobility to the paralyzed and sight to the blind, to enabling telepathy and downloading memories for later use — or perhaps to be uploaded into other bodies.
Meanwhile, Musk recently created a business dedicated to developing sophisticated artificial intelligence. The Tesla boss also predicted that the electric car maker’s autonomous driving technology is on the way to a breakthrough.
Musk has argued that synchronizing minds with machines is vital if humans are to avoid being overtaken by artificial intelligence to the point where, under the best of circumstances, humans would become like “house cats.”
Experts and scientists are still wary of his vision of a symbiotic fusion of minds with supercomputing.