Video Shows Neuralink’s First Human Brain Chip Patient Playing Chess: ‘It Has Already Changed My Life’

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Elon Musk’s brain tech startup Neuralink, which develops brain implants for people with physical disabilities to control computers with their thoughts, livestreamed a video on Wednesday showing the first-ever user doing several tasks with his mind.

Noland Arbaugh, 29, a former Texas A&M University athlete, was paralyzed in a diving accident in 2016 and has no sensation below his shoulders. In January, Arbaugh was the first human patient to trial the brain chip.

On Wednesday, he demonstrated how he was able to use a mouse cursor, play online chess, and pause music.

https://t.co/OMIeGGjYtG

— Neuralink (@neuralink) March 20, 2024

Arbaugh stated that he was able to stay up until 6 a.m. playing Civilization 6, a turn-based strategy video game, because of the chip.

Related: Elon Musk Says Neuralink Just Implanted Its ‘Telepathy’ Device in a Human Brain for the First Time — Here’s What That Means

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

The Neuralink chip, which is a coin-sized implant called Telepathy, works within a part of the brain that controls movements. According to the company, the chip takes a user’s brain activity and allows them to operate devices like computers and smartphones through intention — without needing to move.

Arbaugh explained that he first had to differentiate between imagined movement and attempted movement. He would attempt to move his right hand in different directions, developing more of an intuition for how to imagine the cursor moving.

Related: Elon Musk’s Brain Implants Were Just Approved for Human Use. ‘You’ll Be Able to Save and Replay Memories.’

“Basically, it was like using the force on the cursor,” he said, later adding that he would “just stare somewhere on the screen” and the cursor would move where he wanted it to.

Users on X expressed hopes and fears for the technology.

There’s this thing tho… pic.twitter.com/FekG7e1BkF

— Satoshi Club (@esatoshiclub) March 20, 2024

Existing technology on the market for people with disabilities includes eye-tracking tech from companies like Tobii Dynavox, which can translate minute eye movements into text, and then into synthetic speech.

Companies like Blackrock Neurotech and Paradromics are also working on brain implants.

Though the brain implant technology is still in its preliminary stages, Musk pointed to its long-term potential.

“Long-term, it is possible to shunt the signals from the brain motor cortex past the damaged part of the spine to enable people to walk again and use their arms normally,” Musk claimed.

Related: Elon Musk’s Neuralink Is Under Investigation for Allegedly Jeopardizing Human Safety

Neuralink, which only follows Musk on X, asked “Who’s next?” on the platform on Thursday.

The startup’s first clinical trial, which the company calls “the first of its kind to be performed in people” is open to human recruitment now for those with limited or no ability to use both hands because of ALS or a spinal cord injury.

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