Neuralink Lets a Monkey Play Pong with his Mind

Credit: Unsplash

I never thought I’d be writing about psychic monkeys in my lifetime.

The idea of controlling a computer with nothing but our thoughts has long tickled the fancy of many a scientist. It’s truly one of the ultimate science fiction fantasies, right up there with giant robots, laser guns, and shoelaces that stay tied. Thanks to the efforts of Neuralink, a machine interface company founded by the infamous Elon Musk, such a fantasy may be closer to reality than ever before.

In a new video posted to the official Neuralink YouTube channel, we get to see Pager, a nine-year-old macaque monkey, manipulating a small dot on a screen into highlighted boxes using a joystick, all while being prompted forward with a little machine pumping out banana smoothies. This process was to calibrate the over-2000 tiny sensors that had been implanted into Pager’s brain several weeks prior. When the sensors were calibrated to detect Pager’s typical motor movements, Pager was then able to manipulate the dot without touching the joystick. In other words, he could move it with his mind.

This new capability was then translated to a simple game of Pong, wherein Pager was successfully able to manipulate his paddle to rally the ball back and forth against a CPU just by thinking about it. Don’t worry, despite the process, Pager’s perfectly fine. Dude gets to sit around drinking smoothies and playing video games; he’s doing pretty well for himself.

Neuralink’s tech is still very young, so this process won’t be used on humans any time soon. In the far-off future, however, Musk hopes that this brain-machine interfacing could be used to allow a paralyzed person to freely manipulate a smartphone, or even to expand one’s own thinking ability by merging it with an AI. It’s a fascinating field of research, and only slightly likely to result in Terminator situation!

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