09 Nov, 23

Musk: A chip for the visually impaired will be launched in a few years


In recent days, Musk, the world’s richest man who has built quite a lot in the fields of AI large models and satellite Internet, has drawn a “pie” for netizens and the capital market that does not know when to land: vision chips.

Well, on Tuesday, Marcus House, a well-known Australian tech journalist, posted on social media that his 14-year-old son Alex has CRB1 retinal dystrophy, a rare eye disease.

Alex is now almost completely blind in one eye and legally blind in the other. House said that because the condition is so rare, it is difficult for him to find other parents in similar situations, so he hopes to find families in the same situation online, or professionals in the field.

Musk, who spends his days surfing the Web intensely, then replied to the post. The world’s richest man said: “While it may not be much comfort to you, Neuralink is working on a vision chip that is expected to be ready in a few years. After helping people who have lost their body-brain connection achieve phone/computer telepathy, this is our next area of research. We are waiting for regulatory approval for our first human subject.”

Brain-computer interfaces have just entered clinical trials

Musk was referring to Neuralink, a brain science company he founded with a group of scientists in 2016. As the name suggests, the company’s main research direction is brain-computer interface – by developing a device that can be implanted in the brain to enable “brain-machine interaction.”

The company has already unveiled the N1 Implant, a fully implantable wireless brain-computer interface device that contains a chip, a battery, and 1,024 electrodes spread across 64 fillets “thinner than a human hair” to record neural activity.

After years of animal testing, the FDA finally approved Neuralink’s implantable device for human clinical trials in May.

For this stage of the goal, Musk said many years ago: our first pursuit is a wireless implantable chip that will enable paralyzed patients (whether they are quadriplegics or high paraplegics) to control a computer, mouse, mobile phone or any device just by thinking… This will obviously be a huge boost and greatly simplify their lives. Musk calls it a Fitbit buried in a skull.

After months of preparation, Neuralink announced on September 19 that it was enrolling patients in its first clinical trial. The company announced that it wanted to recruit patients with limited limb function due to spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) who have not shown improvement for at least one year after the injury, who are at least 22 years old and have a stable and reliable guardian, who have no history of active implants or seizures, and who have no medical conditions requiring magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Neuralink revealed that the primary trial will run for 18 months, and with follow-up, the total trial period will be closer to six years. If the trial is successful, it could help boost industry and regulatory confidence and put BCI related use cases on the fast track.

Obviously, unlike the big rocket, which can “fight every failure,” the standard for conducting experiments on human brains is obviously much higher. Musk had said he wanted to start human trials in 2020, but after years of wrangling with the FDA, approval was not granted until this year. It also makes his description of a vision chip being released “years from now” seem a little distant.

According to the National Eye Institute, serious vision-related illnesses are on a long-term upward trend, with approximately 1.3 million blind and 2.9 million amblyopia patients in the United States today, and those numbers are likely to grow to 2.2 million and 5 million by 2030.