Elon Musk's Neuralink start-up has announced that it has obtained authorization from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, the US regulatory body on public health) to start testing to implant chips in the human brain.
"This is an important first step that will one day allow our technology to help many people," the Californian company explained on its Twitter account, adding that "trials" have not yet begun.
The goal is to develop a system that can help people paralyzed or suffering from neurological diseases to communicate directly with an external device through thought. The start-up also intends to make these implants safe and reliable enough to be used as elective surgeries.
For Elon Musk, these chips must allow humanity to achieve a "symbiosis with AI". "We are now confident that Neuralink's device is ready for humans, so the timing depends on the FDA approval process," he said in late November on Twitter a month after the purchase of the social network.
The billionaire is used to risky predictions, as it was for the autonomy of Tesla electric cars. In July 2019, it estimated that Neuralink could perform its first tests on people in 2020. So far, coin-sized prototypes have been implanted in the skulls of animals. Different monkeys are thus able to "play" video games or "type" words on a screen simply by following the movement of the cursor with their eyes.
Patrick Pleul / Pool via AP
Other companies are working to control computers with thought, such as Synchron which announced in July 2022 that it had implanted the first brain-machine interface in the United States.
"We are building technology that can directly convey the thoughts of people who have lost the ability to move or speak due to illness or injury," Thomas Oxley, founder and head of this start-up, said in a video on his website. Several patients test the implant, which has been inserted into the blood vessels, allowing them to compose emails or surf the internet thanks to their eyes and brains.
In this case the "device" called Stentrode is not implanted directly in the brain but connected to the latter through blood vessels with a procedure similar to that of inserting a cylindrical metal retractor such as the stent.