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Monkey plays video game through telepathy; Elon Musk shares viral video

Mehak Agarwal     April 9, 2021

Looks like monkeys are here to give human beings a run for their money when it comes to video games! Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup founded by billionaire Elon Musk aimed at developing implantable brain-machine interfaces, has shared a video of a monkey playing Pong, a popular video game through telepathy.

In this video, a nine-year-old macaque monkey Pager was taught how to play an on-screen video game using a joystick. The nine-year-old monkey is seen using the joystick to move a coloured block in the video game. The Neuralink inserted in Pager's brain was able to predict where exactly Pager would move the block via machine learning and predict its hand movements, i.e., some movements are likely to become more pronounced when Pager moves his hands to the right and vice versa. Pager's intended hand movements were predicted in real-time by recording from multiple neurons and feeding their activity into a decoder algorithm.

For starters, the decoder is calibrated by recording neural activity as Pager uses a joystick to move the cursor towards the targets presented on the screen. After recording the neural activity, the data is collected on a computer. Post this, the relationship between the patterns of neural activity and different joystick movements is defined using mathematical modelling in order to calibrate the decoder.

The output from the decoder to move the cursor can be used to move the cursor instead of using the joystick after few minutes of calibration.  The video later shows Pager operating a joystick completely on his own. According to scientists at Neuralink, "Our goal is to enable people with paralysis to use a computer or phone with their brain activity on their own".

This captured the attention of Musk, who is also the CEO of SpaceX and he retweeted Neuralink's tweet and wrote "Monkey Plays Pong with this mind".

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HOW WAS THE NEURALINK PLACED IN PAGER'S BODY?

The monkey had a 2,000 electrode fully-implanted neural recording and data transmission device also known as the N1 Link placed in the hand and arm areas of the motor cortex, according to Neuralink's press release. The motor cortex is that part of the brain which is involved in planning and executing movements.

HOW DO WE CONNECT OUR PHONES WITH NEURALINKS?

The nine-year old monkey interacted with a computer. The administrator can interact with the Neuralinks attached using an iPhone just like you connect your phone to a Bluetooth speaker.

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