Neuralink — a technology company that develops brain-machine interfaces — raised $205 million in venture capital and announced that it would begin development of brain implants for humans.
According to a blog post from the company — which was founded by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk — investors in the Series C funding round include Google Ventures, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and Dubai-based Vy Capital.
The blog post explains that N1 Link — Neuralink’s first offering for humans — will help quadriplegics access the digital world without the use of their hands:
Neuralink has spent the last four years building the first high channel count brain machine interface intended for therapeutic use in patients. Our first product, the N1 Link, is a 1024 channel device that, once implanted, is completely invisible and transmits data via a wireless connection. The first indication this device is intended for is to help quadriplegics regain their digital freedom by allowing users to interact with their computers or phones in a high bandwidth and naturalistic way. The funds from the round will be used to take Neuralink’s first product to market and accelerate the research and development of future products.
Link works via micron-scale threads — which are so small that they must be placed into the brain with robotic surgery — that contain electrodes connected to an implant.
Other theoretical applications for Neuralink’s products include providing users the ability “to communicate more easily via text or speech synthesis, to follow their curiosity on the web, or to express their creativity through photography, art, or writing apps.”
Earlier this year, Neuralink successfully demonstrated its solution with a macaque monkey who played a game of “MindPong.” Without touching a computer interface, the monkey visualized the motions of its paddle — and the fully-implanted neural recording and transmission device carried out the moves accordingly.
Neuralink also used the device to model the somatosensory signals produced by pigs as they explored their pen.
According to Neuralink’s frequently asked questions page, the firm has not yet begun clinical trials with humans. The firm’s long-term mission is to create brain-machine interfaces “that are sufficiently safe and powerful that healthy individuals would want to have them.”