The Neuralink video of a monkey playing Pong using its brain is pretty impressive… if it is real. Could this be a fake publicity stunt to attract investors before the company goes public?
When he’s not sh*t posting on Twitter or trying to send Dogecoin to the moon, Elon Musk is working on hard on his many endeavours. He has his fingers in many pies including solar energy, automotive, vacuum tunnels, space travel and — more recently — brain-computer interface.
I’m a huge fan of the big brained entrepreneur we know as Elon Musk. I love his Tweets, and I love most of his projects with the exception of the Cybertruck. But it is his latest invention that quite literally has me scratching my head.
Well, obviously Elon Musk isn’t the inventor of this futuristic mind blowing technology called brain-computer interface, but he is the primary investor in one of the leading companies Neuralink in that industry all the same, but is it real or fake.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink company posted a video demonstrating their new technology and, in all honesty, it is a little hard to believe. The video shows a monkey playing Pong using only its brainwaves. “Holy crap, that’s insane,” is what I first thought when I saw the video, but then I became sceptical.
“How can this cute little monkey be better than me at Pong!” I said out loud when it dawned on me just how kickass the monkey was at Pong. The little fellow doesn’t miss a beat and his reaction time is insane. “This monkey would definitely be a quickscoping sniper if he ever played Call of Duty,” I thought.
Monkey beat me at Pong.
After my ego took a hit I was left questioning the authenticity of the video. “Is it this Neuralink tech real?” I asked myself. I mean just the idea of a monkey kicking butt at pong is a hard concept to swallow, but that the fact that he’s doing this while using some space-aged mindreading technology just made me even more doubtful. So, naturally, I analysed the video.
First of all, I must apologise, the monkey has a name. His name is Pager and he is 10 out of 10 adorable.
The first video I saw was just of Pager playing Pong and what first caught my eye was that Pager didn’t seem to be really focused on what was going on on the screen, or at least it was hard to tell because of the camera angle. He looks more focused on whatever is coming out of that big metallic straw (something tasty, no doubt). It is probably the instrumental that supposedly “records and decodes the electrical signals from the brain”. But surely they must add some kind of flavour to it, because if I Pager, I would not put that into my mouth.
This segment of the Neuralink video would be so easy to fake. Put some awesome monkey just in a big metallic straw. Get Pager to sit in front of a monitor while some scrub plays pong with a wireless controller of screen. Ta-dah! Look, it’s a monkey playing Pong with its brain!
It is easily fakeable… but is it?
However, the second part of the Neuralink video actually shows Pager playing a game using a joystick — and it appears to be real. Pager the monkey uses the joystick to move a dot to touch orange coloured boxes. This part would be a lot harder to fake because the movement of the joystick directly correlates with the dot’s. There’s even a moment where Pager loses focus and looks away for a second. The dot misses its target and stops until Pager focuses on the game again. Mighty impressive.
Again, this part is a lot harder to fake but not impossible, but you would need some fancy technology to do this. The joystick would need to be linked to the wireless controller and its movements would also need to be remotely controlled by the human player offscreen. But… but… the monkey’s reaction would be so hard to mimic. This makes me believe that this part of it, at least, is actually real.
My God, I sound like a conspiracy theorist. You’ve got to admit, though, this is a little hard to believe. And I’m not saying this isn’t real.
This type of brain-computer interface technology is nothing new. Other companies have demonstrated similar tech before albeit not nearly as impressive or responsive as Musk’s Neuralink, but it is certainly nothing new. Neurable, a competitor company to Neuralink, was the first to demonstrate this technology 2017 for with the world’s first brain-controlled virtual reality (VR) game. But come on, reverse engineering a monkey’s brain? That’s next level stuff.
Brain-Computer Interface is a proven tech.
Although I have reason to be sceptical, Elon Musk has a good track record for being transparent with his endeavours and technology. He also has earned many accolades in provable futuristic-like technology.
Nathan Copeland is one of the few human beings who already has a working interface implanted into his brain. He broke his spine in a car accident and is paralyzed from the chest down. So, suffice to say this technology is real.
Nathan Copeland is very impressed with the Neuralink technology as it gives him access to realistic functioning robot hands. In an interview with Technology Review Copeland said, “Basically, the more electrodes you have, the more neurons you record from, so I would imagine higher-degree tasks would be easier. I am limited to thinking about my right arm and hand. I thought it would be good to have more control. I always want to play more video games.”
Seems like early adopters of this new tech are all gamers, Pager included. As I’ve been writing this article I’ve convinced myself more and more that the video we saw of Pager kicking butt at Pong using brain-computer interface technology is real. If that’s the case, Elon Musk better get give us footage of Pager playing Call of Duty very soon. Can you imagine having the very first primate play for the FaZe Clan?