Neuralink Debuts Brain Chip in Online Chess Demo

21 March 2024

Neuralink’s First Patient Plays Chess Using Mind-Controlled Chip

In a groundbreaking event, Neuralink, the brain-chip startup led by Elon Musk, showcased its technology’s capabilities by livestreaming a patient implanted with a chip using his mind to play online chess. The demonstration marked a significant milestone for the company, which aims to empower individuals with paralysis to control a computer cursor or keyboard solely through their thoughts.

Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old who became paralyzed below the shoulder following a diving accident, was the star of the livestream. Arbaugh, who had the Neuralink device implanted in January, has since been able to operate a laptop cursor with his mind. “The surgery was super easy,” Arbaugh commented during the stream on Musk’s platform X, adding that he experienced no cognitive impairments and was discharged from the hospital the next day.

The technology has not only enabled Arbaugh to play chess but also to re-engage with Civilization VI, a game he thought he had lost forever. “I had basically given up playing that game,” he said, revealing that Neuralink gave him back the ability to enjoy his pastime, even indulging in an 8-hour gaming session.

While Arbaugh’s experience has been life-changing, he acknowledges that the technology is “not perfect” and that there are still issues to be ironed out. Kip Ludwig, a former neural engineering program director at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, echoed this sentiment, stating that while what Neuralink has achieved is not a “breakthrough,” it is a positive development and a “good starting point.”

This news comes amidst concerns raised last month when Reuters reported that FDA inspectors found problems with record keeping and quality controls during animal experiments at Neuralink. The company did not respond to questions about the FDA’s inspection at the time.

The progress shown by Neuralink, despite these challenges, offers hope for many individuals with mobility impairments. The potential for these patients to interface with a computer in new ways could lead to greater independence and improved quality of life.

Elon Musk's Neuralink livestreamed its first patient, Noland Arbaugh, using a brain chip to play online chess

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