Electro-occular implants transform blind grandmas into NBA stars

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Daily Tech has a great article up about the newest revisions of Second Sigh Vision’s Argus electro-occular implant technology, which aims to partially restore sight to the blind.

The earliest trials in 2004 featured a 4×4 inch grid of electrodes to translate incoming light into electrical signals to be passed onto the brain, but Argus Mach II is now up to 60 electrodes in a 10×6 grid. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but Second Sight thinks the 60 electrode version will allow the blind to read, and even 16 electrodes is enough for the blind to live dramatically improved lives.

Linda Morfoot, 64, living in Long Beach, California, has suffered from retinitis pigmentosa from her initial diagnosis at 21, and by 50 was almost entirely blind. She received an implant of the 4×4 version in 2004. She says the device is life changing and a complete success. She explained, “When they gave me the glasses it was just amazing. I can shoot baskets with my grandson, I can stay in the middle of the sidewalk. I can find the door to get out of a room, and I can see my granddaughter dancing across the stage. When we went to New York I could see the Statue of Liberty, how big it was. In Paris we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night, and I could see all the city lights. I feel more connected to what’s around me.”

What an incredible world we live in, where blind grandmas deftly swish basket after basket from the three point line with the aid of their cybernetic eyeballs! That’s a bit of hyperbole, of course, but that’s the wonderful thing about it: soon enough, it won’t be.

Bionic Eyes Impolants Give Partial Vision to Blind Patients [Daily Tech]

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9 Responses to Electro-occular implants transform blind grandmas into NBA stars

  1. Jerril says:

    @#2: No, it’s a 4×4 PIXEL grid.

    Kind of puts 1024×768 into perspective.

  2. Daemon says:

    It’s a cyberpunk world, charlie brown.

  3. RyanH says:

    When you consider all the replacement heart valves, pacemakers, hearing aids, hip replacements and now these a shocking percentage of our elderly population is mechanically enhanced.

    Cyborgs live among us. And they crave bingo night.

  4. Hunty says:

    a 4×4 INCH grid? Why grandma, what big eyes you have!

  5. arkizzle says:

    #6

    The earliest trials in 2004 featured a 4×4 inch grid of electrodes to translate incoming..

  6. huzubu says:

    I saw something like this in an episode of Wired Science on PBS, but instead of using electrodes in the eye, they used a grid placed on the surface of the tongue, and relied on the brain to remap it to vision. From the comments by users, and the experiments they showed, it worked pretty well. I think they had a similar version for people who can’t balance due to inner-ear problems.

  7. Ari B. says:

    An old friend of mine from high school just had his second cochlear implant put in, as a follow-up to the first implant he had done ten years ago.

    He’ll be ready for stereo once they switch it on. :-)

  8. sg says:

    #2 / #8 : I was thinking exactly the same thing, I couldn’t believe what my 10 x 6 inch eyes were telling me.

  9. joelfinkle says:

    I did some literature research on this 25 years ago, and aside from putting the guts of the sensors in the eyeball, it really hasn’t changed much. The problem is creating a decent, clear map in the optical cortex: electrodes will create huge “light blobs” in your visual space, nothing like a pixel. Part of this is that the eye does a fair amount of the graphics processing in the retina: the signals passed to the brain are, to some degree, shapes and patterns. If these devices can piggyback on those higher retinal functions, there’s a shortcut. Doesn’t help those with optic nerve damage, though.

    Cochlear implants are relatively easy: the cochlea runs a straight frequency map on the spiral, so dropping electrodes into that gets you a high degree of functionality, no brain surgery needed.

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