Elon Musk’s Neuralink backed by Google Ventures, Peter Thiel, Sam Altman
Elon Musk, Founder and Chief Engineer of SpaceX, speaks during the Satellite 2020 Conference in Washington, DC, United States on March 9, 2020.
Yasin Ozturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Elon Musk’s brain-machine interface company, Neuralink, has raised $205 million from investors including Google Ventures, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
The series C round, announced in a blogpost Thursday, was led by Dubai-based Vy Capital.
It comes two years after Neuralink raised $51 million. Total investment in the company now stands at $363 million, according to start-up tracker Crunchbase.
Founded in 2016, Neuralink is trying to develop high-bandwidth brain implants that can communicate with phones and computers.
The company is targeting its first devices at quadriplegics — who are unable to interact with many of today’s devices — and it is working toward human trials.
“The first indication this device is intended for is to help quadriplegics regain their digital freedom by allowing users to interact with their computers or phones in a high bandwidth and naturalistic way,” it wrote.
So far, the technology has been trialed on pigs and a monkey that was able to play the video game Pong with its mind.
The company said its first product, known as the N1 Link, will be “completely invisible” once implanted and transmit data via a wireless connection. Musk, who is CEO of Neuralink as well as Tesla and SpaceX, has previously described Neuralink as a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires that go into your brain.
“The funds from the round will be used to take Neuralink’s first product to market and accelerate the research and development of future products,” Neuralink said.
Keeping up with A.I.
Neuralink said Thursday that its mission is to “develop brain-machine interfaces that treat various brain related ailments, with the eventual goal of creating a whole brain interface capable of more closely connecting biological and artificial intelligence.”
AI is only going to get smarter and Musk has previously said that Neuralink’s technology could one day allow humans to “go along for the ride.”
People are in effect already “cyborgs” because they have a tertiary “digital layer” thanks to phones, computers and applications, he said during a Clubhouse discussion in February.
“With a direct neural interface, we can improve the bandwidth between your cortex and your digital tertiary layer by many orders of magnitude,” said Musk. “I’d say probably at least 1,000, or maybe 10,000, or more.”
The cortex is a part of the brain that plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. The digital layer he refers to could be anything from a person’s iPhone to their Twitter account.
Long term, Musk claims that Neuralink could allow humans to send concepts to one another using telepathy and exist in a “saved state” after they die that could then be put into a robot or another human. He acknowledged that he was delving into sci-fi territory.
Musk said the Neuralink device will be in
Several other companies are also developing brain-computer interfaces including Blackrock Neurotech, which has been backed by Thiel and his friend Christian Angermayer.
Elsewhere, scientists at the University of Melbourne have already had some success with brain-computer interfaces.
A study out of the university in October showed two humans controlling a computer through thought using a stentrode (a small stent-mounted electrode array) developed by Australian biotech firm Synchron without having to shave the skull and drill through it.
The stentrode brain-computer interface allowed two people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — a rare neurological disease — to type, text, email, do online banking and shop online through thought.