“Like Using The Force”: Neuralink Brain Chip Patient Demonstrates “Telepathy” In Livestream

A man fitted with a Neuralink brain implant participated in a livestream on X (formerly known as Twitter) yesterday, using the device to play a game of chess online.

In May 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) controversially gave permission for Neuralink to trial the company’s device in humans, following trials in monkeys, and a pig named Gertrude. In January 2024, the company announced that they had fitted a chip into a human subject for the first time.

Towards the end of February 2024, Neuralink founder Elon Musk gave an update on Neuralink’s human trial of their brain implant device, in which he claimed that the recipient could now use the device to control a cursor on a screen using his mind.

“Progress is good, and the patient seems to have made a full recovery, with neural effects that we are aware of,” Elon Musk said in the update, per Reuters. “Patient is able to move a mouse around the screen by just thinking,”

In a live demonstration of the technology on Wednesday, the recipient – now known to be 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh – showed that he was able to move the cursor with apparent ease, using it to play a game of chess.

“I love playing chess, so this is one of the things that you all have enabled me to do. I wasn’t able to really do much the last few years, especially not like this,” Arbaugh explained during the livestream. “I had to use my mouth [device], but now it’s all being done with my brain.”

Arbaugh, who was paralyzed below the shoulders in a car accident, explained that the surgery was successful, and following a little training with the device, he was able to use it to control a cursor on the screen, even using it to play the video game Civilization VI.

“We started out trying a few different things. We basically went from […] differentiating imagined movement vs attempted movement. So a lot of what we started out with was attempting to move. I would attempt to move, say, my right hand left right forward back,” he said in the presentation. “And from there it just became intuitive for me to start imagining the cursor moving. It was basically like using the Force on a cursor. I could get it to move wherever I wanted, stare somewhere on the screen and it would move where I wanted it to, which was such a wild experience.”

He had been unable to play games on his own, relying on friends and family members to control whatever device he wanted to use. Now he is able, when the Neuralink device is charged, to play games to his heart’s content. “And I’m kicking ass,” he added.

The device and other brain-computer interfaces are exciting, with the potential to improve the lives of people with paralysis. However, this is only the first human trial of Neuralink’s device, and there is a long road ahead.

“It’s not perfect. I would say that we have run into some issues,” said Arbaugh. “I don’t want people to think that this is the end of the journey, there’s still a lot of work to be done. But it has already changed my life.”

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