Pong is back but not what you think. Elon Musk’s Neuralink just shared a video of a monkey playing the legendary game using only his mind to control the paddles. The key to this seemingly magical ability is of course a small implant called a Neuralink in the monkey’s brain and the software that analyzes how the monkey’s neurons react to the movement of the joystick.
We first heard of Neuralink’s monkey and pong efforts in early February when Musk teased the news about Clubhouse. Several weeks later, Neuralink has published a video about this achievement, in which a nine-year-old macaque is playing “MindPong” with the implant in the brain.
According to the Neuralink video, this macaque had the implant installed on each side of its brain about six weeks ago, which is why its hair has not fully returned to its scalp. The training in this case includes a display with a simple game, a joystick built into the wall, and a straw that gives the macaque a banana smoothie treat when doing on-screen tasks.
The first task is to display a point and blocks on the screen. The monkey must use the joystick to move the point on the block when it appears. In doing so, the data collected by the Neuralink implant is recorded and analyzed, paving the way for complete mind control of the game.
At one point the video shows the team unplugging the joystick attached to the display, but the point continues to move around the screen. This is because the monkey controls it by simply thinking about the movements it would make with the joystick – something that is just as effective when it comes to playing a hardcore game of pong.