Paraplegic Plays Chess Helped By Neuralink Chip In Brain

A paralyzed man is able to play chess with the help of a chip produced by Neuralink and implanted into his brain. A video posted on Wednesday evening on the social media platform X showing the remarkable achievement has been viewed over 70 million times.

In January of this year, the 29-year-old Noland Arbaugh became the first-ever person to receive a chip implant from Neuralink, Elon Musk’s startup that is developing technology for people with paralysis to be able to communicate with computers.

In Wednesday’s nine-minute livestream on Musk’s platform X, Arbaugh explained that he got fully paralyzed below his shoulders, losing all feeling in his body, arms and legs, following a diving accident eight years ago where he dislocated his C4 and C5 spinal vertebrae.

Sitting behind a laptop wirelessly connected to the Neuralink chip, Arbaugh shows that he is capable of “telepathically” moving the cursor on his computer screen, which is showing a Chess.com chessboard. He is playing a game on our server by pure brain control, and is also able to control music.

In the video, Arbaugh says using the Neuralink implant feels like using “the Force” from the Star Wars franchise. Just by staring somewhere on the screen, he can place the cursor wherever he wants. He also revealed that the chip allowed him to play the video game Civilization VI for eight hours straight.

On January 29 of this year, Neuralink’s billionaire founder Elon Musk revealed on his platform X that the first human had received a chip implant on the day prior and was recovering well, adding: “Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.” Musk called his first Neuralink product Telepathy, first used by, as is now revealed, Arbaugh.

In September last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had given the company clearance to carry out the first trial of its implant on humans. Before, Neuralink tested their devices on monkeys, pigs and other animals, which led to criticism from groups such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

As The Wall Street Journal pointed out, moving a computer cursor isn’t a big technical leap for brain-computer interfaces: “An older brain chip first implanted in a human in 2004 also helped a paralyzed person move a cursor with only their thoughts.”

That older chip, however, needed to be attached to a device on the outside of the brain to transmit data which required wires sticking out through the skin. Neuralink’s wireless connection between the chip and the laptop seems to be particularly special.

“It’s not perfect,” Arbaugh admitted at the end of the video. “I would say that we have run into some issues. I don’t want people to think that it is the end of the journey, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but it has already changed my life.”

… there’s still a lot of work to be done, but it has already changed my life.

—Noland Arbaugh

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