Synchron’s device is notable for a few reasons. For one, it’s much less invasive than a traditional BCI. That’s because instead of a direct brain implant, which requires tricky surgery through a patient’s skull, Synchron’s device is inserted through the jugular vein near the motor cortex. The device is then connected with a wire to a computer in the patient’s chest—not unlike a pacemaker. From there, it’s able to read the person’s brain signals and send them to a computer or smartphone through Bluetooth, allowing the patient to use the internet, use email, or send a text just by thinking.
While it’s not as powerful as a BCI directly implanted in a person’s brain, it still offers a mostly minimally invasive procedure to give folks who are paralyzed or otherwise unable to use their limbs an opportunity to communicate and surf the web. It’s an incredibly promising piece of technology.
But where the real intrigue lies is who is funding the project: Max Hodak, a former president and one of the co-founders of Neuralink.
Hodak left the Musk-led venture in 2021 under somewhat opaque circumstances and has since been funding multiple BCI rivals to Neuralink including Synchron. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to ride along on their journey and, while realistically advisors are usually of limited usefulness, to help them succeed in whatever little way I can,” Hodak wrote in a blog post in February.