Will Neuralink Brain on a Chip Be a Business Success?
Neuralink is perhaps the most futuristic idea that came out of Elon Musk’s mind. The American company has been giving hope to thousands of disabled people across the world. And this is where the skepticism begins. With such ambitious promises comes the risk that those promises are just hollow PR announcements. In the recent past, we have seen how Elizabeth Holmes promised a device that could do ad hoc blood tests, come up with accurate test results, and even adjust the doses based on the results. All those proved to be empty promises. Is Neuralink the new Theranos?
Brain-on-a-Chip Vs Lab-on-a-Chip
What Holmes was working on is technologically known as the lab-on-a-chip. What Musk is working on is technically called the brain-on-a-chip. At present, Lab-on-a-Chip technology is at a nascent stage. It is used to detect pregnancy or, in the most recent case – to detect the presence of the Covid-19 virus. However, it can’t be used to conduct more sophisticated blood tests that currently require specialised equipment.
Neural-Interfacing Is Already an Established Field
The technology behind Musk’s Neuralink is already in practical use. The idea might seem far-fetched or perhaps too good to be true. But the concept of neural interfacing has been successfully demonstrated in several studies. Neural interfacing is the concept of linking the nervous system with a non-human technological implant.
Cochlear Implant Is Quite Similar to Neuralink
Cochlear implants are used by people who have extreme difficulty in hearing. The implant consists of a microphone that sends external noise to a processor- another part of the implant. The processed noise is then picked up by the receiver implanted inside the ear. It converts the processed noise into electrical impulses, which are then distributed to auditory nerves with an array.
Hence the practical uses of the brain-machine interface are already there right in front of us.
The Business Prospect of Brain-Computer Interface
Innovations like Neuralink have a bright future ahead of them if market research is anything to go by. Across the globe, the neural-interface business is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.4%. The market share of such devices is going to cross 356.9 million US dollars within five years. According to CrunchBase, Neuralink has received total funding of $373 million, of which $205 million came from external investors.
Despite a promising future, Elon Musk’s Neuralink has to face some challenges as well.
The first challenge, of course, will come in the form of compliance and ethics. According to a Reuters report, Neuralink has been accused of unnecessarily and cruelly killing more than 1500 animals since 2018. Authorities are investigating Neuralink’s role in animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act.
From a philosophical point of view as well, the company will face resistance from people who might think inserting a chip into the brain is some kind of abomination.
Secondly, from a business point of view, Elon Musk is notorious for leaving projects unfinished. The Boring Company is a perfect example of that. People won’t like to have something in their heads that might stop getting support in the near future.