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Elon Musk’s Neuralink Shows First Brain-Chip Patient Playing Online Chess

Neuralink brain chip patient
Noland Arbaugh, 29, the first person to have the Neuralink computer chip implanted in his brain, plays chess just by thinking. Video screenshot/Neuralink

On Wednesday, Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup Neuralink live streamed its first patient implanted with a chip playing online chess and toggling a music stream on and off.

Noland Arbaugh, a 29-year-old man who is paralyzed from the shoulders down due to a diving accident eight years ago, joined a live stream alongside a Neuralink engineer on X to show the public how the brain-computer interface tech works.

“It’s all being done with my brain. If y’all can see the cursor moving around the screen, that’s all me, y’all,” he said while the live stream showed his cursor moving across an online chess game. “It’s pretty cool, huh?”

Arbaugh received an implant from the company in January and could control a computer mouse using his thoughts, Musk said last month.

“Basically, it was like using the Force on the cursor and I could get it to move wherever I wanted. Just stare somewhere on the screen and it would move where I wanted it to, which was such a wild experience the first time it happened,” he said, referencing Star Wars.

Before receiving the chip, Arbaugh would need another person’s help to play online chess and video games. “Now I can literally just lie in bed and play to my heart’s content,” he said—at least until the battery of his rechargeable chip dies.

The chip contains a thousand electrodes programmed to gather data about the brain’s neural activity and movement intention. It then sends that data to a Neuralink computer for decoding to transform the thoughts into action.

“The surgery was super easy,” says Neuralink brain chip patient

“The surgery was super easy,” Arbaugh said in the video streamed on Musk’s social media platform X, referring to the implant procedure. “I literally was released from the hospital a day later. I have no cognitive impairments.”

“I had basically given up playing that game,” Arbaugh said, referring to the game Civilization VI. “You all (Neuralink) gave me the ability to do that again and played for eight hours straight.”

The US Food and Drug Administration greenlit human trials of the brain chip last year after the company did hundreds of tests on animals—and faced backlash from animal rights groups in the process.

Neuralink has not disclosed how many people will be enrolled in the six-year trial or where the trials will be held. It also has not registered its study on a government website logging medical trials involving human test subjects, according to Wired.

Kip Ludwig, former program director for neural engineering at the US National Institutes of Health, told Reuters that what Neuralink showed was not a “breakthrough.”

“It is still in the very early days post-implantation, and there is a lot of learning on both the Neuralink side and the subject’s side to maximize the amount of information for control that can be achieved,” he added.

Even so, Ludwig said it was a positive development for the patient that they have been able to interface with a computer in a way they were not able to before the implant. “It’s certainly a good starting point,” he said, according to Reuters.


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