Pong is back, but not in the way you think. Elon Musk’s Neuralink has just shared a video showing a monkey playing the iconic game, doing so only using its mind to control the paddles. The key to this seemingly magical ability, of course, is a small implant called Neuralink placed in the monkey’s brain and the software used to analyze how the monkey’s neurons responded to joystick movement.
We first heard about the Neuralink effort involving monkeys and Pong back in early February when Musk teased the news on Clubhouse. Fast-forward several weeks and Neuralink has now shared a video of this accomplishment, one that features a nine-year-old Macaque playing ‘MindPong’ using the implant in its brain.
According to the Neuralink video, this macaque had the implant installed in each side of his brain six or so weeks ago, which is why his hair hasn’t entirely returned to his scalp. Training, in this case, involves a display with a simple game, a joystick built into the wall, and a straw that delivers the macaque a banana smoothie treat when he accomplishes on-screen tasks.
The initial task involves displaying a dot and blocks on the screen. The monkey must use the joystick to move the dot to the block when it appears. While doing this, data gathered by the Neuralink implant is recorded and analyzed, paving the way for total mind control of the game.
At one point the video demonstrates the team unplugging the joystick connected to the display, but the dot continues to move on the screen. This is because the monkey is controlling it by simply thinking about the movements it would perform with the joystick — something that is just as effective when it comes to playing a hardcore game of Pong.