Wednesday 16 November 2016

Bionic Eyes Can Help If You Can't See Perfectly

bionic eyes

Technology is more advanced than where are today.

As technology evolves ever more rapidly, scientists are turning their attention inward, investigating how to stall the ageing process and treat physical impairments.

The latest tech marvel might sound like the work of science fiction, but bionic eye implants could soon give millions of people the chance of seeing again.

Tests are already underway on several retinal prosthesis systems that promise to restore perfect vision to their wearers, and if successful, they could become a solution to the genetic eye disorder retinitis pigmentosa.

The artificial organs work by linking the gap between light entering the eye and the optic nerve, which is responsible for communicating images to the brain so we can process what we are seeing.

The most promising device comes from Second Sight’s artificial iris. So far it is the only US FDA-approved device on the market, and its creators believe it is poised on the cusp of commercialisation.

Dubbed the ‘Argus II’, the device is worn like a pair of sunglasses.

The glasses work by capturing images with a tiny camera and sending them to a handheld, connected computer.

bionic eyes

The computer then processes the data and transmits it wirelessly to an electronic device implanted on the retina, and the brain interprets the rest.

A three-year clinical trial proved that the so-called bionic eye was effective in treating certain vision disorders and in a world-first, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles last month managed to implant the visual stimulator chip into the brain of a 30-year-old woman.

The patient, who had been totally blind for seven years, reported that she saw coloured flashes, lines and spots when signals were sent to her brain from a computer.

During six weeks of testing, the patient consistently saw the exact signals the scientists sent to her visual cortex, the section of the brain which usually receives images from the optic nerve.

According to a statement released by the University of California, the patient suffered no significant adverse side effects in the process.

Another up-and-coming piece of technology comes from Melbourne’s diamond-electrode bionic eyes. The tech, if successful, could help those with the most incurable blindness to recognise facial expression and read large print.

Currently beginning preclinical testing in Melbourne, the design uses man-made diamond electrodes inside a diamond case to stimulate the retina at the back of the eye, so messages can be sent to the brain and interpreted visually.

In a global race to be the first to introduce the tech to the market, lead researcher Dr David Garrett said that his team’s device is different from the rest because it is fully wireless and the diamond casing would never erode in the body.

The only issue with optical tech? It will cost you. Wired reports that having your eyes fitted with the Argus II will cost between £80,000 and £100,000 in total - although that cost is being reduced as development continues.

Think tanks are also predicting that beyond healing blindness, bionic eyes could also help us to buy superhuman properties.

In the future, artificial eyesight could help us to be able to see heat, identify gases by sight and maybe even look through walls.

Scientists are not ruling out the idea that the tech could one day allow you to zoom in and out of your field of vision, record what we see and automatically ‘sync’ your vision to the net.

The technology is still in its infancy, but the significant recent breakthroughs mean that we’re probably not too far from being able to treat the 39 million blind people the World Health Organisation reports are currently living worldwide with visual impairment.

Still, it may be several decades before we can post Instagram pictures with a blink of the eye.



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