April 15, 2024


Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface company, kicked off 2024 by announcing its first successful human trial. There was some skepticism about the surgery, so last week that human came forward to show off just how incredible Neuralink can be.

Noland Arbaugh uses a wheelchair to get around after a swimming accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. He was the guest of honor at a Neuralink company meeting, where he discussed the new technology and how he uses it. While he will certainly use this technology in other life-changing ways, he first showed off what is really important; his video game racing skills:

Arbaugh’s skills at Mario Kart certainly pay the bills, as Futurism notes:

What’s especially impressive about the demo is that Arbaugh seems to have pretty impressive control, directing his racer not just to turn but how far to turn, suggesting a fine degree of analog control dexterity. For example, he was able to shoot another player down during the demo video.

Other impressive feats that Arbaugh has achieved with the Neuralink implant include being able to play the strategy video game Civilization VI.

Hell yeah Civ VI! Arbaugh is putting that Neuralink to good use with his great taste in games. While that is certainly cool he’s able to manipulate computers with just his brain, a bit of a caveat is required; the neural interface, which Neuralink calls “Telepathy,” is not exactly as groundbreaking as it would appear. Technology for connecting paralyzed folks with computers has existed for a while now, according to Bloomberg:

Neuralink is not the only company working on brain devices that connect with computers. Modern demonstrations of cursor control by using thoughts have taken place in other humans with various types of implants, such as those deployed by the BrainGate consortium of research institutions and hospitals.

However, the Neuralink device contains more electrodes than other devices, suggesting it may have more potential applications in future. The Neuralink technology works without needing a wired connection to external devices.

[…]

“I’m happy for the individual that he’s been able to interface with a computer in a way he wasn’t able to before the implant,” said Kip Allan Ludwig, co-director of the Wisconsin Institute for Translational Neuroengineering. “That’s not a breakthrough compared to what others have shown previously, but it’s certainly a good starting point.”

Neuralink definitely gets props for a wireless version of the technology, along with some interesting potential uses. However Neuralink has also had its share of scandals and unanswered questions, including just how many monkeys were tortured to death to make the technology eventually work.

A version of this article originally appeared on Jalopnik.



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