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(CNN Business) —  

This week Elon Musk unveiled his most sci-fi project thus far: a computer chip connected to exceptionally slender wires with electrodes on them, all of which is meant to be embedded in a person’s brain by a surgical robot. The implant would connect wirelessly to a small behind-the-ear receiver that could communicate with a computer.

Musk hopes the implant, created by his brain-computer interface startup Neuralink, could one day help quadriplegics control smartphones, and perhaps even endow users with a sort of telepathy. Like existing brain-machine interfaces, it would collect electrical signals sent out by the brain and interpret them as actions.

Elon Musk, shown here in March 2019 before unveiling Tesla's Model Y, is working on a chip he hopes will eventually be implanted in people's brains. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
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Elon Musk, shown here in March 2019 before unveiling Tesla's Model Y, is working on a chip he hopes will eventually be implanted in people's brains. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Neuralink, which was founded in 2016, has already tested an early, wired version of this implant in rats (and Musk indicated it has enabled a monkey to control a computer with his brain, too); Musk said human trials could start by the end of next year, though the company doesn’t yet have approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for such a study. (And, it should be noted, Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has a history of making outlandish technological claims: for instance, the he said in a recent interview that getting humans to Mars in 4 years “sounds doable.”)

Neuralink’s promise of a brain-connected device that looks as nondescript as a hearing aid — the kind of thing you could hide with hair or a hat — is exciting to scientists who have spent years working on this technology.

“The general idea and their motivation, I think, are spot on,” said Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh and pioneer in the brain-machine interface field.

And, in fact, a number of experts told CNN Business that Neuralink could, in the c