In a presentation showing the latest developments on Neuralink’s brain-computer interface, Elon Musk revealed that the company has implanted prototype devices in live pigs, and was able to achieve rudimentary limb-tracking by monitoring activity in the brain.

Neuralink is a brain-computer interface startup founded by Elon Musk. The company hopes to build an implantable device that can read electrical signals from the brain and also “write” to the brain by stimulating it with electrical signals of its own. The initial focus is on medical applications, but the company expects similar devices to be used much more widely in the long run, including for gaming.

Neuralink recently shared an update on its latest brain-interface device and the surgical robot which is being design to make implantations precise and cost effective.

In a live presentation, Elon Musk revealed Neuralink’s latest prototype brain-interface device which it calls the Link 0.9. While a prior version of the Link was mostly external to the brain, except for tiny wires that were inserted, the Link 0.9 is a fully internal device that is implanted in a coin-sized slot cut into the skull, with the skin healed back over top of it. The device is inductively charged through the skin.

Image courtesy Neuralink

Neuralink revealed that it has already been implating the device into live pigs to demonstrate that the procedure is safe and that Link can be removed if necessary without causing any lasting brain damage, according to the company.

Valve Psychologist: Brain-computer Interfaces Are Coming & Could Be Built into VR Headsets

The pig implants are functional Link devices which read activity from a shallow portion of the brain by detecting electrical activity across 1,024 locations. In the demonstration the company showed a visualization of the brain activity data being read by the device.

Musk showed that Neuralink had rigged up an algorithm for rudimentary limb-tracking  using input only from the Link. The company used the data to predict the position of each limb which was matched with visual measurement of the limbs to show how closely the prediction matched reality.

Image courtesy Neuralink

Though there was a significant amount of error in the predicted positions, it was still close enough to appear impressive considering the source of the data. While Musk said the predictions were based on the “neural activity” of the pig, he had also said previously in the presentation that the Link would include other sensors like an IMU; we’ll be interested to see more detailed research published on this particular experiment, as the addition of IMU data would make it a much less impressive demonstration of rudimentary limb-tracking. A pig’s gait is also not a particularly dynamic pattern, so it isn’t clear how well this method could translate to something like human arm motions.

In the long run the company is “100%” certain that brain-interface devices like Link will be used in gaming.

“I think that a good benchmark of ‘does it work well on humans’ is ‘does it work well enough for a quadriplegic play Starcraft’,” Neuralink’s Max Hodak said during a Q&A session following the presentation. “That’s a good functional target.”

In the presentation Musk announced that Neuralink has been granted a “breakthrough” designation by the US Food and Drug Administration (which approves medical treatments and devices). Such a designation is made to accelerate the regulatory process for promising treatments.

The company also believes that its brain-interface tech will be able to solve a laundry list of brain-related medical conditions in the long run; the presentation specifically listed: memory loss, hearing loss, blindness, paralysis, depression, insomnia, extreme pain, seizures, anxiety, addition, strokes, and brain damage.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • What Musk is doing is very important, not only on the technological side, but also on the marketing one: it is creating buzz for BCIs facilitating the work of all startups in that segment

    • Przemo-c

      Buzz for sure and engeneering as well but he’s pretty far from industry standard in terms of signal fidelity. Also typical Muskian overoptimism regarding bidirectionality etc. What he’s good at is bringing the price point down. But for now he has to bring fidelity and processing up.

  • Ad

    This is grotesque. Musk is a childish billionaire who gets whatever he wants and has the worst solution to every problem.

    • Andy Prokhorov

      Falcon 9 seems to work good enough.

      • Ad

        Sure, SpaceX is successful. I think it ends there though.

        • Andy Prokhorov

          So, not “the worst solution to EVERY problem.” Good. Now, Tesla also appears to be not the worst car on the market…

          • Ad

            I have nothing good to say about Tesla. Make sure you sell your stock before the bubble bursts.

          • asd

            even if it bursted it would still end up very high lol so yeah have fun with that mentality

    • Adderstone VR

      Wow, you’re grotesquely uninformed.

  • Andy Prokhorov

    As long as they don’t implement a kill switch, I’m OK with that.

    • Jimmy Arias

      Be aware of “Laputan Machine”, just in case.

      • Caven

        Don’t be so paranoid, “Flatlander Woman”.

  • Arashi
    • GigaSora


  • kontis

    as the addition of IMU data would make it a much less impressive demonstration of rudimentary limb-tracking

    What, What? If you can get this kind per joint data from one IMU on the skull you deserve a Noble prize.

    • benz145

      For a repeating pattern like that pig gait, my guess is that it would be pretty easy to achieve this level of accuracy from IMU data alone if you’re only looking at one walking speed (which is all they showed us so far). As I mentioned, it would be much more difficult for something more dynamic like human arms that do not often move in a repeating pattern.

  • MosBen

    We’re likely 25-50 years off from any genuinely useful commercial application targeted at consumers. Which isn’t to say that there won’t be really great medical applications sooner than that. It might be a useful tool in tracking and treating seizures, for instance. But we’re not going to be jacking into the Matrix or Metaverse anytime soon.

  • MosBen

    Animal testing is an extremely important part of medical research. Obviously there should be ethical controls and reviews, which there are in most developed countries, but we need to study new treatments before they’re used on humans.

    • asdf

      Yupp those pigs they tested most likely have a better life than all of us. Fed and comfortable, all for an hour procedure, then back to being a pig

      • MosBen

        If there were a way to do medical testing without the use of animals, I’d support it. And who knows? Maybe in the future we’ll be able to simulate human and/or animal physiology so perfectly that we can test treatments virtually and can do away with live animal testing. But until there’s a better option, animal testing is essential to our ability to advance science.

      • incubeezer

        Pigs can live up to 15-20 years, I doubt they’re just going back to “being a pig” after these tests, not very cost effective. The pigs used for Neuralink tests will almost certainly be euthanized.

    • incubeezer

      Way late response here.

      While animal testing sounds logical, I think it’s been found that animal physiology is far too different to be useful, there’s a lot of waste of life and results are unreliable. Dogs (usually Beagles for their gentle demeanor), rats, mice, monkeys, etc. are frequently used for meaningless, repetitive testing. It’s an ugly industry driven by government funding, usually. You’d be surprised that even in developed countries like the U.S., there are few or no protections in place for animals.

      • MosBen

        Different animals are more or less like humans biologically, and animal testing is still an important part of medical research. You would never go directly from animal testing to approval and distribution of a medical treatment, but it would absolutely be both productive and standard research practice to do animal testing before progressing to limited human testing, before progressing to larger human trials, before finally seeking approval. There are certainly ethical considerations when doing animal testing, meaning those are already part of research proposals, and cruel or unnecessary animal testing is certainly not something that is widely approved. Of course, yes, there is probably debate at the margins about what is or is not ok in animal testing, and there may well be individual instances in which researchers could have/should have used some alternative. And those are worthwhile conversations to have, but the idea that animal testing is IN GENERAL a bad thing simply misunderstands how medical science is done. Perhaps in some future time we’ll have such advanced computers that we’ll be able to simulate most/all of our medical testing and will be able to reduce or eliminate animal testing. But we’re not there yet.

  • Andy Prokhorov

    Are you vegetarian as well?

  • Jim P

    If you think this is cool good luck. You will never decide what you do for yourselves it is the dream of of Karl Marx dreams.

  • Mattphoto

    Oculus fans:
    Required Facebook account is unacceptable for privacy!
    Also Oculus fans:
    Brain implant that can read your thoughts? By a billionaire egomaniac who acts like a fucking 3-year old? Sure, I’ll use that to control beat saber.