Neuralink, Elon Musk’s radical neurotechnology company, has demonstrated how far it’s come with its brain-computer interface technology by uploading a video of a macaque test monkey successfully controlling a game of Atari’s classic 1972 arcade hit, Pong, using only its mind. In what seems like something out of a sci-fi film, “Pager’s” mutant-like ability was made possible by a 1,024 electrode fully-implanted neural recording and data transmission device dubbed the N1 Link, which is able to translate neural activity into movements based on complex models. Neuralink’s ultimate goal for the device is to allow people with paralysis to operate computers and mobile devices even quicker than what a person without disabilities might be able to do by hand.
By modeling the relationship between different patterns of neural activity and intended movement directions, we can build a model (i.e., “calibrate a decoder”) that can predict the direction and speed of an upcoming or intended movement. We can go further than simply predicting the most likely intended movement given the current pattern of brain activity: we can use these predictions to control, in real time, the movements of a computer cursor, or in the video [above], a MindPong paddle.