Quadriplegic Patient Plays Chess With His Mind Using New Neuralink Chip

Photo composite The Daily Beast/Neuralink
Photo composite The Daily Beast/Neuralink

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain chip startup, released a video on Wednesday showing the company’s first patient using a laptop with just his mind.

The video, which was livestreamed on Neuralink’s account on X, showed 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh playing a game of chess on his laptop using Neuralink’s brain computer interface (BCI) technology. Arbaugh is paralyzed from the shoulders down due to what he describes as a “freak diving accident.”

“It’s all brain power there,” Arbaugh said, referring to his ability to use a mouse and keyboard unassisted. He later added, “Basically, it was like using the Force on the cursor and I could get it to move wherever I wanted.”

In the livestream, Arbaugh described the process of learning to use the BCI and what he did after Neuralink gave him complete control of the technology when it became “intuitive” for him to move a computer cursor. “I actually stayed up until—jeez, I don’t know—6 a.m. playing Civilization 6,” he said, referring to the popular strategy video game.

A month ago, Musk announced on X that Neuralink had implanted a brain chip in an actual human patient. Despite his statement, there was still plenty of room for doubt, especially considering the billionaire’s tendency to make bold and unfounded claims. However, the video appears to now confirm that the BCI startup has finally done what Musk has long promised to do for years.

It would also represent a milestone for the company, which has seen itself plagued with controversies including allegations from animal rights advocates that the organization tortured and killed Macaque monkeys during experiments. The company also delayed human trials of its BCIs multiple times due to FDA approvals.

However, now that they’ve seemingly successfully implanted the chip into a human, it puts Neuralink on much firmer footing for future trials and technologies that Musk said will allow users to control their devices “just by thinking.”

The Daily Beast has contacted Neuralink for comment.

Arbaugh was a student at Texas A&M University when he became paralyzed while working as a children’s camp counselor in 2016, according to a GoFundMe page. The accident resulted in permanent damage to his C4 and C5 vertebrae, leaving him a “complete quadriplegic” with no sensation below his shoulders, Arbaugh said in the video.

“I would need complete help from my parents” to use devices like laptops and tablets before the Neuralink implant, he explained. Now, his biggest barrier is “waiting for the implant to charge” before he can use it. “It’s been so cool,” he said. “And I’m kicking ass, too.”

Arbaugh explained that he’s hopeful and excited for his future. He even plans to dress up as Professor X this Halloween with his friends since he’s “telekinetic, basically.”

“I don't want people to think that this is the end of the journey,” Arbaugh added. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. It has already changed my life.”

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