Thousands of people have expressed interest in getting one of Neuralink’s brain implants, according to a recently published Bloomberg report by Ashlee Vance, who previously authored Elon Musk’s biography among other works.
The procedure is expected to take “a couple of hours” and is performed by a surgeon – after which it takes an additional 25 minutes for a robot to insert the device that will replace the part of the skull that is removed.
Vance, who said he has visited Neuralink’s facilities 10 times over three years, reports that the company has not yet implanted its device in a human but aims to operate on 11 people next year and over 22,000 by 2030.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Neuralink, founded by Musk in 2016, approval to begin human trials with the device Musk described as a “Fitbit in your head”. The FDA had previously rejected Neuralink’s application to conduct human trials in March due to safety concerns – including because the wires connected to the brain chip could move in a subject’s head or the chip could overheat.
In September, the company began recruiting for its first human trials. Neuralink wrote in a blog post that it was looking for people who had paralysis in all four limbs due to spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The company says it hopes to eventually create a device that will create a kind of symbiosis between humans and machines and enable people to send messages or play games using only their thoughts. But first and foremost, the company hopes to help people with neurological diseases.
According to Vance, there is “an outpouring of interest from thousands of prospective patients” – but he adds that despite the interest, the company is still looking for “someone willing to have a chunk of their skull removed by a surgeon so a large robot can insert a series of electrodes and superthin wires into their brain”.
The procedure itself is expected to take “a couple of hours” and is performed by a surgeon. Then it takes an additional 25 minutes for a robot to insert the device – this will also replace the part of the skull that is removed.
So far, more than 155 operations have been performed with the robot on a variety of animals – including pigs and monkeys. According to Vance, Musk also hopes that the robot will soon be able to perform the operation entirely without human assistance.
Neuralink has not wanted to comment on the publication. However, it should be noted that companies like Synchron and Onward, which focus on “brain computers”, have already started human trials – something that contributes to Musk’s desire to accelerate development.