Neuralink founder Elon Musk
Hannibal Hanschke Pool / Getty Images
  • Elon Musk's Neuralink announced Thursday it had raised R2.9 billion in a series C funding round.
  • Neuralink said the funds will help bring its first brain-chip product to market.
  • The chip will let quadriplegic people control digital devices with their minds, Neuralink said.
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Elon Musk's Neuralink, the company developing microchips designed to go in people's brains, has raised R2.9 billion in funding, it said in a blog post on Thursday.

Neuralink said the funding would go towards one specific application of its chip: helping quadriplegic people control digital devices with their minds.

Vy Capital led the funding round, and Google's GV - formerly Google Ventures - also took part, Neuralink said.

Seven venture capital firms participated, joined by five Silicon Valley executives contributing their personal wealth, Neuralink said. Among those executives was Sam Altman, founder of Y Combinator and CEO of OpenAI, which was cofounded by Altman and Musk.

Neuralink is developing a neural interface device it calls the N1 Link, a microchip that sits in a human skull with wires fanning out into the brain's cortex. The device could, theoretically, allow the chip to both monitor brain activity and send signals to the brain.

The chip has lots of theoretical applications, including treating neurological conditions and enabling amputees to control robotic limbs.

Neuralink said in its blog post that the funding would help bring its chip to market.

"The first indication this device is intended for is to help quadriplegics regain their digital freedom by allowing users to interact with their computers or phones in a high bandwidth and naturalistic way," the company said.

"The funds from the round will be used to take Neuralink's first product to market and accelerate the research and development of future products," it added.

It's unclear when Neuralink will begin human testing. Musk said in February that the company could transition from primate to human trials by the end of this year. He predicted in both 2019 and 2020 that the company could start testing on humans by the end of 2020.

Neuralink isn't the only company trying to bring neural-interface tech to market. Earlier this week its competitor Synchron, a biotech firm with just 20 staff, announced that the Food and Drug Administration had green-lit human trials of its own chip - beating Neuralink.

Neuralink is more than a medical tech company to Musk, who's said in the past that he wants to meld human consciousness with AI. Musk said during a podcast interview in 2019 that Neuralink is "intended to address the existential risk associated with digital superintelligence."

"We will not be able to be smarter than a digital supercomputer, so, therefore, if you cannot beat 'em, join 'em," Musk said.

Speaking to Insider in 2019, neuroscientists said Neuralink's near-term medical applications could be useful, but said blending human consciousness with AI was a "fantasy."

"To get to the level of integrating with AI, this is where [Musk] sort of is going off into aspirational fantasy land," Andrew Hires, an assistant professor of neurobiology at the University of California, said in 2019.

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