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SYFY WIRE Neuralink

Not only can this Neuralinked monkey play Pong, he can do it with just his mind

By Adam Pockross

By today’s standards, Pong doesn’t appear to exactly offer the latest, greatest gaming experience around, but just try and tell that to Pager, a macaque monkey who works for Elon Musk at Neuralink, who is currently playing the game with just his mind.

Wait, are we sure we don’t want to call the game… Kong? Sorry, we were just monkeying around, and this is legit cutting edge science we’re talking about here.

The gameplay is all part of Musk’s master plan of creating a “fully-implanted, wireless, high-channel count brain-machine interface (BMI),” aka a Neuralink, according to the company’s latest blog post highlighting Pager’s gameplay. While the end goal of the implanted device is to give people dealing with paralysis a direct, neural connection to easily and seamlessly operate their computers and mobile devices, the technology is currently giving this monkey some solid entertainment (as well as some tasty banana smoothies).

Check out Pager playing Kong… er, Pong… in the video below:

In the best video you’ll see of a monkey playing video games all day, we get to hang out for a few minutes with Pager, a 9-year-old macaque who, about six weeks ago, had a Neuralink device implanted into each side of his brain. By appearance, he doesn’t seem to be ill-affected by the procedure, save for some missing head fur. Although, it’s hard to say we’re really having a good hang, as Pager is intently focused on playing mind games with a joystick, and on the sweet, sweet smoothies he gets for interacting with the computer. (Hey, at least he’s getting paid.)

A simple smartphone interacts with the Neuralinks in Pager’s brain, pretty much the same way your phone connects to a Bluetooth speaker. Data is then collected from links with over 2,000 electrodes implanted in the regions of the monkey’s motor cortex that facilitate hand and arm movements. From this data, a baseline is configured, which can predict the monkey’s movements ahead of time, which allows the scientists to eventually unplug the joystick and let Pager play Pong, really well, with merely his mind.

You can hear all about the seemingly sci-fi science in the vid above, or read even further in the blog post, but basically, as the narrator tells us, “It’s not magic, the reason Neuralink works is because it’s recording and decoding electrical signals from the brain.”

Now imagine what it can do for humans.