Elon Musk unveils brain-reading chip in pigs

Elon Musk Credit: AP/Press Association Images

Elon Musk has revealed new wireless technology, which he hopes will help people with severe neurological conditions, has been implanted into pigs.

The Tesla and SpaceX founder showed off the technology during a demonstration from his startup Neuralink which appeared aimed at recruiting new staff.

The entrepreneur showed off a prototype of the device, about the size of a large coin, which had been surgically placed inside several pigs shown in an enclosure behind him.

He said of one pig: “We have a healthy and happy pig, initially shy but obviously high energy and, you know, kind of loving life, and she’s had the implant for two months.”

He described the chip as “a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires”.

He said: “The neurons are like wiring, and you sort of need an electronic thing to solve an electronic problem.”

Neuralink has sought approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for the project, which has seen scientists develop a tiny implant with more than 3,000 electrodes, attached to flexible threads measuring about the tenth of the size of a hair, and capable of monitoring around 1,000 neurons.

During Friday’s update, Musk was asked about methods of application including for video games or summoning one’s vehicle.

Musk's startup, Neuralink, wants to one day implant computer chips inside the human brain. Credit: AP

But the 49-year-old and his team made it clear the company first wants the chip to assist people who have severe spinal cord injuries with talking, typing and movement using their brain waves.

“I am confident that long term it would be possible to restore someone’s full-body motion,” said Musk, who has also famously said that he wants to “die on Mars, just not on impact”.

Although the technology is initially aimed at helping those with brain disorders, Musk has said a brain-machine interface is needed in the future to mitigate the “existential threat of AI”.

During Friday’s update, the billionaire called for engineers, coders and those with experience delivering products to market to apply to work at Neuralink, adding: “You don’t need to have brain experience.”