An Australian group have restored some minimal sight to a patient through an implanted bionic eye.
The implant is connected to an external head mounted camera which sends impulses to electrodes planted underneath the retina. The patient was able to see light and dark and some shapes where she had previously seen nothing for many years.
There are currently over 10 different bionic eye projects around the world at various stages but no one to date has got much further than providing very rudimentary vision. One of the most advanced is the Argus II model in America.
Australian scientists hope to have a prototype bionic eye built and ready to test on humans within the next year.
The bionic eye which we’ve highlighted before gives hope to people suffering from various types of retinal degeneration and works by implanting 98 electrodes (pictured below) into the retina to replace the damaged cells. An image from a tiny spec mounted camera is then relayed onto the electrodes in the retina. The signal is then passed through the optic nerve to the brain to all the person wearing to see the image from the camera.
Such complex work needs high-tech equipment and the lab in New South Wales has just spent $2.5mill upgrading their equipment to carry out the delicate research.
BBC News reports that the Pentagon have ordered a special type of contact lens incorporating dual focus optics which allows the wearer to view a heads-up display whilst maintaining normal vision.
The iOptik system made by Innovega is being delivered to Darpa the Pentagon’s high tech R&D unit and most likely is destined for the battlefield but could eventually be combined with augmented reality systems that are all the rage right now.
Of course multifocal contact lenses aren’t a new idea, (neither are contact lens based heads up displays for that matter). We’ve been fitting multifocals at Cameron Optometry for years to people who require dual focus (for distance and reading as the eye ages a little). If only Darpa had thought to come here first…
Scientists at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems have presented for the first time a contact lens-based virtual display.
Engineers from the University of Washington used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.
Virtual displays have been proposed for many practical purposes — visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.
“Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,” said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. “This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it’s extremely promising.”