Driven by the aim to create a working brain-to-machine interface, Elon Musk has taken a step ahead and unveiled a pig called Gertrude with a coin-sized computer chip in her brain. The billionaire entrepreneur has been working on enhance “human cognition”, who says this new interface could allow people with neurological conditions to control phones or computers with their mind. If all goes well, the coin-sized device could help a paralysed person operate technology.

A Fitbit For Your Skull

Gertrude the Pig has a snout linked to her brain

During the event, Gertrude the pig was shown to have an area of the brain linked to her snout. Attached was a device that was recording signals from her brain. This device has been implanted for two months before the demonstration. As a result, when Gertrude’s snout touched anything, there was a reaction. Some graphic activity and sounds suggested that more neurons were active at the time.

Why the snout? Research suggests that pigs have large parts of their brains that are devoted to the snout, a sensitive sensing instrument.

As Gertrude shuffled around the pen sniffing hay, a computer beeped and blue wavelengths on the screen jumped up and down.

Musk said the computer was recording the pig’s brain activity. The processor in her brain is designed to send wireless signals, indicating neural activity in her snout when looking for food. Musk said, “The beeps you are hearing are real-time signals, the future’s going to be weird.”

Additional Reading: What is Troubling Elon Musk?

Safety and Science

Highlighting on the New Brain Chip Neuralink, Musk stated, “We’re making good progress toward clinical studies”. He also said, “I’m excited to announce that we received a breakthrough device designation from the FDA in July… I want to be clear,” he continued. “We’re working closely with the FDA. We’ll be extremely rigorous. We’ll significantly exceed the FDA guidelines for safety. We will make this as safe as possible.”

The coin-sized chips are designed and developed by Musk’s secretive startup Neuralink. This device is a tiny computer chip, meant to be stitched by a “sewing-machine-like” robot into the brain on a network of superfine electrode-studded wires. It is designed to monitor signals in the brain and then interpret them into motor controls. Elon Musk said, “I think it’s going to blow your minds. It’s like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires.”

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The latest development of brain chip implant will allow people who are paralysed to operate technology, such as smartphones or robotic limbs, solely with their thoughts. Last week, there was a livestreamed YouTube demonstration  with Gertrude the Pig.

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