Mind writing coming soon?
Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company, has been working intensively on the project for two years, which was presented at a special conference in July this year. Scientists have created a prototype of an implant that would be implanted in the human brain. Apparently, this type of experiments have already been carried out on rats and chimpanzees and everything went according to plan, i.e. … it was possible to connect the brain and the computer.
The whole process is quite complicated. A robot specially designed for this purpose places the electrodes in the skull. Although the chip does not look impressive at the moment and all impulses and data are sent via cables, in the future they are to disappear. In addition, it will have access to a global network or a personal cloud where images that our eyes can see, or even memories, will be saved. According to Elon Musk, the brain-computer interface is to be the only way to survive in a world dominated by AI, which is expected to happen in the future. In this way, humans will be able to match artificial intelligence.
As it turns out, the entrepreneur’s plans are not so innovative (although Neuralink has been operating since 2016), because two years ago Facebook also announced that it was working on a method that would enable “writing from the mind” and “listening with the skin”. Already in 2017, research was carried out in cooperation with, among others, with the University of California in San Francisco, which showed that scientists are able to “read” the given word that the subject says by analyzing brain activity. When we think, we do not see the text, but only the object. For this reason, there would also be no limitation due to different languages. A given word was pronounced as part of the answer to a fixed question. Such a system would be to help mute people communicate with their surroundings and would enable them to type 100 words per minute.
The latest research that the University of California in cooperation with Facebook is carrying out in this direction concerns the brain work of people with epilepsy. A patch with electrodes was attached to their heads to detect which part of the brain was the focus of attacks. Algorithms encoding images from the brain to text showed about 60% efficiency – however, it must be remembered that the development of the entire mechanism is still in the testing phase, so this result already at this stage satisfies neurosurgeons anyway.
Facebook, in addition to being a sponsor of university research, cares about the results of the conducted analyzes, because on their basis it could create a platform or interface specially adapted to “silent typing”.
In the near future, another study will begin – this time for a year – during which Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon and professor at the University of California, will observe the brain of only one patient who has permanently lost the ability to speak. The same method as for people with epilepsy will be used, i.e. active electrodes mounted on the skull.
How would this thought-writing take place? Since Elon Musk wants to completely abandon cables in the implant, according to Mark Chevillet, director of research at Facebook Reality Labs, it could be, for example, a device in the form of glasses using AR technology. It would connect to the brain via a publicly available network, and would be used not only for writing, but even for regulating the volume of music. For now, however, these are still only predictions, because this is an undertaking that carries with it great responsibility. Comprehensive research, development of the entire mechanism and tests will take years.