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Biotech Hardware

Bionic Eye Could Restore Vision 167

Posted by Zonk
from the we-have-the-technology dept.
MattSparkes writes "A new bionic eye could restore vision to the profoundly blind. A prototype was tested on six patients and 'within a few weeks all could detect light, identify objects and even perceive motion again. For one patient, this was the first time he had seen anything in half a century.' The user wears a pair of glasses that contain a miniature camera and that wirelessly transmits video to a cellphone-sized computer in the wearer's pocket. This computer processes the image information and wirelessly transmits it to a tiny electronic receiver implanted in the wearer's head."
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Bionic Eye Could Restore Vision

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  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Friday February 16, 2007 @07:17PM (#18045834) Homepage Journal
    I imagine that in the not too distant future some perfectly healthy geek will have one of these implanted. I'd seriously consider it when resolution gets to about 24 bit SVGA ( It will have to have fast PGP on the wireless connection so that I control what I am seeing. I do not want my optical nerve spammed directly ).
    I hope there is a 'turn-off-and-see-through' option that lets you use the original organic hardware when you want.

    It works even better if it is implanted in an infant, so that the brain can adapt to it as it grows. This will, of course, be considered child abuse when it is first done. In a century or two it will be considered abuse NOT to have it done for your kid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209)

      I imagine that in the not too distant future some perfectly healthy geek will have one of these implanted.
      Sure, but not instead of a perfectly good eyeball. Triclops, anyone?

      Actually, I hope implants aren't the only way. Just give me the wearable version. Our brains are highly evolved to make use of our eyes, so I doubt there's much to be gained by cutting open healthy people for direct access to nerves.

    • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Friday February 16, 2007 @07:29PM (#18045980)
      Mods are on crack - this is actual interesting discussion.

      There's too much we don't know aobut infant vision to mess with the brains early development - although who knows what stuff like television is already doing to us. However, I think it would be better to have these for overlays and such - where it mixes both the incoming light and anything being fed in from the connection. SVGA seems a little low resolution wise - don't forget this is your whole field of vision. You'd want probably 4-5 times that at least to resolve floating screens and such in front of you.

      Don't forget to add those aural implants for Dolby 600 channel sound!
      • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday February 16, 2007 @09:02PM (#18046782)
        There's too much we don't know aobut infant vision to mess with the brains early development

        An interesting tidbit on this topic: Scientists have done experiments in cats where they've blocked all incoming light to the cat's eyes during early kittenhood. A portion of the visual cortex does not organize properly without this input, causing the cats to have permanent non-functional vision. A similar effect is seen in human children who are born with cataracts or develop them very shortly after birth.

        (Hubel and Wiesel received part of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for this work done through the 1960s and 70s.)

        • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Friday February 16, 2007 @09:24PM (#18046900) Homepage Journal
          Another kitten experiment involved raising them in environments with either only horizontal or only vertical lines. As adults, they simply could not see objects of the 'wrong' orientation. A cat who had been raised in a horizontal-only world could hop up on the seat of a chair, but would bump into the legs if he tried to walk under it.
          • by Dunbal (464142) on Friday February 16, 2007 @09:50PM (#18047054)
            A cat who had been raised in a horizontal-only world could hop up on the seat of a chair, but would bump into the legs if he tried to walk under it.


                  Cool! Next time I have kittens I know what I'm going to do....(evil laugh) heeeere kitty kitty kitty
          • by Trillian_1138 (221423) <slashdot@fridaythang. c o m> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @01:11AM (#18048210)

            A cat who had been raised in a horizontal-only world could hop up on the seat of a chair, but would bump into the legs if he tried to walk under it.

            I had heard that the kittens could indeed not see vertical lines (or horizontal, depending on the environment in which they were raised) but that as soon as they were put in normal situations they learned to compensate almost instantly by tilting their heads. The way I heard it, if you put kittens raised without horizontal input and tested them, they couldn't see horizontal lines but that if you put them in a normal environment with a bunch of normal kittens, you couldn't tell the difference because the ones with the vision impairment were compensating.

            I never did see the study, and have no background in vision research, so I couldn't tell you which version is true, but I'd be willing to guess that the kittens learned to compensate by tilting their heads. It just seems unlikely they wouldn't learn how to compensate.

            Trillian

            PS - sorry for using the word 'compensate' so much. I guess I'm compensating for something.
        • by master_p (608214)
          Another nail in the coffin of intelligent design...
      • I'd settled for having my vision augmented for UV, IR, and other spectra normally not visible. Particularly in low light conditions. Besides, it would be cool to never have to take my sunglasses off again.

        2 cents,

        QueenB.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by KlaymenDK (713149)
          You might want to think that over once more -- if you can see UV and especially IR, you definitely *would* need to wear sunglasses more often ... or be blinded by remote controls, garage door openers, people beaming Palm data, and what have you.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      All I want is a grid of PV cells with appropriate filtering circuitry etc installed directly into my retina, and a variable (deformable) lens installed to replace my cornea, with maybe another one so that I can have zoom without having things move (much) inside my eye. The former can provide things like IR vision, and if it can transmit a very short distance, recording, albeit only in greyscale without having redundant elements and color-pass filters. All I care about is IR. And the zoom! That would be so a
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by skoaldipper (752281)
        One of the real challenges (I would imagine) such as this chip implant on the retina is keeping it in place. Retina surgery alone isn't guaranteed. The fluid pushing against that lining can vary with age or even something like cabin pressure from an airplane ride. The synergy between medicine and engineering here really is a marvel example of our body's design and function. It's a testament to both. Personally, I prefer non evasive enhancements for what you mention; like a disposable super contact lens.
        • by KlaymenDK (713149)
          You, sir, have been watching too much Star Trek.

          Personally, I prefer non evasive enhancements
          The word you're looking for is invasive. :D
    • by monopole (44023) on Friday February 16, 2007 @08:00PM (#18046274)
      This must be stopped until HDCP is implemented for the visual cortex. Otherwise people will be able to see protected content without DRM! Of course once reliable HDCP is implemented it should then be mandatory, plugging the analog hole once and for all!
    • by indigest (974861) on Friday February 16, 2007 @08:12PM (#18046392)
      The possibilities here are very intriguing. The study that the article mentioned used a pair of glasses with a camera. But there's no reason why those glasses/cameras would need to be on your face. You could literally set up eyes in the back of your head, a security camera monitored by yourself, or expand your field of vision to be much larger. Also, you could set up a virtual reality sim just by playing back a recorded stream of visual data into your implant.

      Of course, the possibilities for mischief with such an implant are also endless. These things would be in high demand for poker games and high school locker rooms and about a billion other things that criminals and perverts will think up.
    • I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      It works even better if it is implanted in an infant, so that the brain can adapt to it as it grows. This will, of course, be considered child abuse when it is first done. In a century or two it will be considered abuse NOT to have it done for your kid.

      That makes sense! I'd even go further and say than in a century or to it'd be abuse NOT to directly throw out your newborn in the trash and replace it with a robot toy!

      Let's keep the discussion real. I also enjoy Ghost in the Shell series, it's very cool and
    • This will, of course, be considered child abuse when it is first done. In a century or two it will be considered abuse NOT to have it done for your kid.

      I doubt both claims, and I think it's a grave mistake, building pessimism into your expectations of people.

      If a blind child can see again, nobody's likely to claim it was child abuse that led there. (unless the chip posed some health risk, but they must have tested in on animals first, right?)

      On the other hand, if sony develops a new graphics chip in 20 yea

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by blank axolotl (917736)
      I imagine that in the not too distant future some perfectly healthy geek will have one of these implanted.

      The problem is, the signal is sent to the optic nerve according to the article -- which is already being used by your eyes if they are healthy. The signal from the camera would interfere the signal from your eye, effectively blinding it (probably). Therefore the current system is only useful to blind people who aren't using their optic nerve.
    • I imagine that in the not too distant future some perfectly healthy geek will have one of these implanted. I'd seriously consider it when resolution gets to about 24 bit SVGA

      Real life is more than a spec sheet of bits and resolutions. The average blind person, for whom there is no other resort than to try this would probably be very excited over this technology, at any "resolution".

      And he would most likely punch you in the face for not valuing your (working) eyesight enough, to the extent that you are

    • by blakestah (91866)
      Don't get your hopes too high...there is a fundamental limitation. Each stimulation of the ganglion cells requires power and generates heat. The chips are currently planar, which means a lot of heat is generated for each stimulation. With 16 electrodes dissipating the heat is manageable...ultimately they will hit the high end. Due to the circulation around the retina and aqueous humor, the eye is a poor place to dissipate heat.

      However, a 25 or 36 electrode version should be very possible. I don't see anyone
  • Interesting (Score:4, Funny)

    by scoot80 (1017822) on Friday February 16, 2007 @07:17PM (#18045840) Journal
    So the image is recieved wirelesly into the brain basically. I wonder if they get any interference.. or can they maybe pick up TV channels?... that would be a bonus.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      I thought more about the shock from some prankster 'toothing goatse images around to unsuspecting phones.
    • by KUHurdler (584689)
      If you do that too much, you'll go blind.
    • can they maybe pick up TV channels?... that would be a bonus.

      Not when the MPAA finds out about it. Then they'll either force you to watch commercials or else send you C&D letters to make you stop seeing. Remember, bionic eyes clearly induce people to use them for watching copyright-violated material.

      Canadians, who are a little smarter, will just assume that everyone's bionic eyes are used to watch infringing material and will charge a tax on bionic eye hardware and pay the industry a cut.

      If we'r

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The current prototype emits a disturbing strange sound whenever the bionic eye is activated.
  • by abradsn (542213) on Friday February 16, 2007 @07:23PM (#18045912) Homepage
    Literally, this will definately benefit my eye condition. I hope that this research turns out to be helpful. From what I understand so far though, it is just prolonging the inevitable... but hey, that's better than nothing.
    • Tapping a cane around forward to this.

      Because the joke is... you can't... you can't see well... er... yeah sorry.
      • by abradsn (542213)
        The disease does not cause immediate blindness. I can still see fine, except in some situations that are fairly easy to avoid. I'm slowly going blind, and will be blind in about 30 years from now.
  • More women are upgrading to the bionic hand that will reach out and smack any perverts with a bionic eye. The uPrevert bionic hand will be a popular item for the holiday season.
  • The procedure was shown on the Apple computer commercial. [youtube.com]
  • Review (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quzak (1047922) on Friday February 16, 2007 @07:26PM (#18045942)
    +3 For the technology +2 For it actually working (would like to see more results data from a reputable source) +2 For bridging the gap between biological and technological distinctiveness (Resistance is futile) -2 For it being Wireless (prone to interference and hacking to the Nth degree, assuming this prototype has no security subsystems installed)
    • Bummer if somebody hacks your vision. Can't see anything because you're too busy closing pop-ups.

      On a more serious note:
      It may sound a little conspiratorial, but I for one don't want everything I'm looking at to be transmitted wirelessly. Add some GPS and "they" will not only know exactly where you are, but they'll see exactly what you're doing.
    • True, but the alternative would be to have a cable protruding from the user's head. If my choices were a) being totally blind; b) being able to see (to some degree) but having to worry about my vision being possibly interfered with; or c) being able to see (to some degree) but having to worry about getting an infection of or near my brain... I would probably pick b).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        True, but the alternative would be to have a cable protruding from the user's head

        If the eye is already defunct, why not remove the eye and implant the camera? It could probably be incorperated into an artifical eye with out much problem. Circuits and cameras are already tiny and the power requirements can't be very high. (nerves deal in microvolts?) A wearable inductive recharger and you are good to go. Reattach the muscle and you could even look around. I can understand the external camera for the earl
        • by FleaPlus (6935)
          If the eye is already defunct, why not remove the eye and implant the camera? It could probably be incorperated into an artifical eye with out much problem. Circuits and cameras are already tiny and the power requirements can't be very high. (nerves deal in microvolts?) A wearable inductive recharger and you are good to go. Reattach the muscle and you could even look around. I can understand the external camera for the early R&D, but I hope the final product is fully implanted.

          I imagine an external came
        • by Baron_Yam (643147)
          Actually, no inductive charger required... we have implantable fuel cells that create electricity using blood as fuel. Your major problem is weight and the optic nerve. Right now, they're putting something in your natural eye - stimulating what you have left to get the message through. Replacing the whole eye gets weight issues (I think it's referred to as orbital sag, but don't quote me), and directly connecting to the optic nerve is probably a nightmare - you can't exactly weld it. Still, I am looking
        • by pipingguy (566974) *
          ...you are good to go

          Aaaarrrggghhh! If I hear that again my head will explode! It's right up there with marketing-types saying, "absolutely" every 12.7 seconds. "Good to go" is a military way of communicating, let's leave it with the military, please. "Absolutely", as used by PR/ad people is a suck-up platitude designed to imply total agreement while they are usually smiling and lying (or at the very least, deflecting a question to somewhere they want you to go).
        • by sjames (1099)

          If the eye is already defunct, why not remove the eye and implant the camera?

          The top reason is that the device interfaces with the ganglion cells in the retina, so they need to keep it.

    • And yea, the last thing I need is another way to receive "Penis Enlargement" spam...
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      -2 For it being Wireless (prone to interference and hacking to the Nth degree, assuming this prototype has no security subsystems installed)

      It has to be wireless for now, because having a port embedded in the skin isn't currently practical. However "they" have discovered that deer's antlers get tied into the skin because they have a highly convoluted surface, with a lot of area, and for some reason the skin is able to attach to this. This is the technology we need to perfect to have ports in the skin.

      In t

      • by maxume (22995)
        Skin penetration, with picture:

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5140090.stm [bbc.co.uk]
      • you wouldn't have to power up, i would think. the body creates electricity, if they master the bionic eye, who is to say they can't turn you into a damn big d-cell?
        • by Dunbal (464142)
          who is to say they can't turn you into a damn big d-cell?


                Whoa, so the matrix is real? ;)
      • by mOdQuArK! (87332)
        Actually, there's some pretty active development on biologically-safe miniature fuel cells which generate electricity from the energy stored in your blood sugar. Not only could you power all those implants, but you could lose weight by using them a lot!
      • by blincoln (592401)
        and I want studs for mounting sunglasses that don't have to go around my head.

        You could get that right now if you wanted. Haven't you seen the scalp implants that let people mount metal spikes on their heads? Sort of a stainless-steel mohawk?

        IMO it's not worth the trouble though. If the stud gets snagged on something when you're falling or moving fast for some other reason, you're going to do some serious damage to yourself.
      • by Smidge204 (605297)

        In the ideal situation you would have some sort of nonchemical energy storage mechanism embedded inside of you, like perhaps a pair of counterrotating flywheels or something (but imagine what happens if the bearings fail) and you'd charge your system through the port.

        I'd prefer a fuel cell that runs off of the glucose and oxygen already present in the bloodstream...
        =Smidge=
    • I believe Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age" had a guy whose vision had been hacked by nanorobots to deliver a small add banner at the periphery of his vision.

      I think, given the choice, wireless is OK for this stage. Wireless invaders will only attack if they're within signal range and they have the motivation. Microorganisms will invade regardless. Any type of surgery or major laceration puts you at risk for infection, and if you have wires running into your head then you have a canal for germs to get t

  • We're now one step closer to building a 1970's version of Lee Majors!

    Now if only the eye could make the cool bionic sound.

  • by Venim (846130)
    Oh wont anyone think of the pirates!
  • make that "Thunn-nunnn-nuhnn-nuhhnn-nuhnn.." sound?

  • I don't know about having this thing fixed on my face for the sole purpose of getting super-human vision. Mr. La Forge wore a simular for years, and I don't remember him getting any action. As a matter of fact, he later upgraded to have somewhat normal-looking eyes.
    • Read the summary again. The camera is small enough to fit on a pair of glasses... presumably it'll be made to blend in as much as possible.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      That's because the federation is xenophobic.

      I am sure you can get some even if you wore La Forge Goggles.

    • I'm more reminded of G'Kar and his detachable artificial eye from Babylon Five.
  • Hmm...wireless transmission of sight huh? Could ads and spam get transmitted that way?

    Reminds me of a Neal Stephenson book, where some tiny, minor character killed himself since he got infected with some ad that played in his vision 24/7. It might have been about Korean roach motel, but it's been too long since I've read it.

  • Another approach (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    http://www.seeingwithsound.com/ [seeingwithsound.com]

    No surgery and apparently it works. What you should see in front of you is converted to sound. Apparently it works great. I've heard a demo on the radio and it really sounds weird. It's different than sonar, which the blind use, in that light levels are converted to sound.
  • ..anyone have linux running on it yet?
  • "This computer processes the image information and wirelessly transmits it to a tiny electronic receiver implanted in the wearer's head."

    What could possibly go wrong :)
  • We must find the frequencies this uses and take over them. Soon, all will see butts!
  • This reminds me of the tongue eye

    It's a camera that was on the blind persons head, and it sends information down so a thing in you're mouth that sits on your tongue, and the pixels on the tongue device move up and down and eventually you can recognise it as images.
    • by indigest (974861)
      You're referring to the BrainPort, which is manufactured by Wicab [wicab.us]. IEEE Spectrum picked it as one of the "tech losers" of 2007 because it is too expensive ($5000-$6000) for what it is. Basically, a camera connected to a computer connected to a little motor that buzzes your tongue.

      The sensing resolution on the tongue is way too low for processing visual data. A dog or cane would be just as useful for a blind person and they wouldn't end up attracting stares. Even with more research, Wicab is not going
  • Next thing we'll see a linux distro that supports the new Human BrainTM architecture, I'm guessing it will be a even bigger pain than usual to make the video drivers work with this one.
  • by ryepnt (1064238)
    This throws a whole new wrench in that abc show "Blind Justice"... If the show was still running this topic would be taken care of in sweeps.
  • Nice glasses (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wellingj (1030460)
    Doesn't make jordy laforge look so silly now does it?
    http://www.newscientisttech.com/data/images/ns/cms /dn11198/dn11198-1_600.jpg [newscientisttech.com]
    http://www.newscientisttech.com/data/images/ns/cms /dn11198/dn11198-2_650.jpg [newscientisttech.com]

    By the looks of things the signals going to be pretty small so I don't imagine it
    would send much interference. But it might recieve a buch though if it has to be ulra
    sensitive though. Oh well it's not like you need more than 30-40fps.

    On the other hand what if you woke up, switched on your recie
  • As long as it makes me feel like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my head, I'm all for it.
  • Once you've got a digital video stream transmitting to the brain it wouldn't be too hard to manipulate it to produce "hallucinations".

    I wonder how the DEA/FDA would treat hallucinogenic code? /. Headline in 2015: "FractalStars.c now a Schedule I Controlled Code Block"
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Once you've got a digital video stream transmitting to the brain it wouldn't be too hard to manipulate it to produce "hallucinations".


            It wouldn't be to hard to copyright the video stream either. You just got a letter from the MPAA asking for $3000 because you took your bionic eye to the movies and illegaly copied one of their films...
  • Man, we've had this since the 1960's! Anyone watch Six Million Dollar Man? Even in the 80's we had this technology. It was called Terminator. Look at him, he's now Governor of California!

    I, for one, welcome our Bionic Eye wearing overlords.
  • I'm blind in one eye, so this definitely interests me. I don't normally mind the reduced depth perception, but I think it would be nice to have a monocle version of this that I can use when doing delicate work or perhaps driving. I am required by law to have a side mirror on the passenger side, but I have to turn my head too far to be able to see it (bad eye = right eye). I wonder how the brain would handle seeing a near-infinite resolution image coming out of the organic eye, and a VGA/SVGA image from
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      I wonder how the brain would handle seeing a near-infinite resolution image coming out of the organic eye, and a VGA/SVGA image from the implant.


            Probably in the same way that the brain handles everything else. Horribly to begin with, headaches, vertigo, vomiting. And a couple months later, you'll hardly notice it.
  • I have a screen-print (apparently not aging well) of some of my hobby software where Slashdot posted a similar story a number of years ago -- the point of this post is that they chose a better "department" back then: screen-print of some software [remote-control.net]
  • Star Trek... I hear Gordie wants the eyedea all to himself.
  • It reads like some cybernetic breakthrough, but the device is nothing special. The breakthrough will be when surgical skills have advanced enough to actually attach thousands of individual sensor outputs to specific retinal nerves, along with refining the electrical exchange between the two in a manner that more closely approximates nature. The eye is more complex than its connection to the brain, also. There are 100 times as many photoreceptors as there are axons to the visual cortex, so there's a lot goin
  • Wireless might be bad for the possibility of intercepting/pirate signals. Think of the alternative. A cable comming out? :/ Prone to infection, super ugly, it'd be like a wound that never closed... a head wound at that.
  • This is fucking amazing, and huge. No, really.

    I think for younger people (who have lost sight due to some premature condition or tragedy), this should be Government funded. I would respect a country's government who gave sight to it's citizens. No one should be blind.
  • I have to believe that having not seen in over 50 years, the first glimmer of anything visual would make you cry.
  • Cadmium sulfide (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @01:17AM (#18048238)

    Once this thing gets working well, use cadmium sulfide [wikipedia.org] in the receptors and you'd be able to see in a wider visual band than normal eyes. Infrared and ultraviolet would become "visible". You would see heat signatures in the dark, and have nightvision among other [wikipedia.org] things. [wikipedia.org]

    • by imsabbel (611519)
      Well, thats obvious. If it takes digital images, you can use _any_ imaging technique. ultrasound/heat imagin/auperzoom lenses... electron microscopes, telecopes, doppler radar. the possibilities are endless.
  • It seems like I've heard about lab trials like this for decades now and I'm really getting bored,

    the new device _may_ [emphasis mine] be available commercially by 2009,

    Guess I'll be impressed when I start seeing people in my neighborhood walking around with them.

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