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Medicine Hardware

Implant Gives Grayscale Vision To the Blind Using Lasers 165

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the not-safe-for-mcdonald's dept.
MrSeb writes with a bit from Extreme Tech: "After a lot of theorizing, posturing, and non-human trials, it looks like bionic eye implants are finally hitting the market — first in Europe, and hopefully soon in the U.S. These implants can restore sight to completely blind patients — though only if the blindness is caused by a faulty retina, as in macular degeneration (which millions of old people suffer from), diabetic retinopathy, or other degenerative eye diseases. ... The Bio-Retina, developed by Nano Retina, is a whole lot more exciting. The Bio-Retina costs ... around the $60,000 [and] the 576-pixel vision-restoring sensor is actually placed inside the eye, on top of the retina. The operation only takes 30 minutes and can be performed under local anesthetic. Once installed, 576 electrodes on the back of the sensor implant themselves into your optic nerve. The best bit, though, is how the the sensor is powered: The Bio-Retina system comes with a standard pair of corrective lenses that are modified so that they can fire a near-infrared laser beam through your iris to the sensor at the back of your eye. On the sensor there is a photovoltaic cell that produces up to three milliwatts — not a lot, but more than enough."
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Implant Gives Grayscale Vision To the Blind Using Lasers

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @05:56PM (#40679033)
    This is super cool, if it works, but I'll shit golden sunshine before I let someone near my eyeball with a knife!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think if you were unable to see sufficently to function you would take this option! I certainly did when I got lasic.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Indeed. I had a CrystaLens implanted in my left eye, and two years later a vitrectomy. Someone should tell the AC they don't use knives in eye surgery, they use needles.

        TFS says "The operation only takes 30 minutes and can be performed under local anesthetic" but this is at least misleading. The first surgery I had (lens replacement) took over an hour and would be far simpler than this procedure, and the vitrectomy, which repairs a detatched retina and replaces the eye's vitreous with nitrogen gas took two

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Would you say that if you couldn't see at all?

    • by Seraphim1982 (813899) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:03PM (#40679131)

      This is super cool, if it works, but I'll shit golden sunshine before I let someone near my eyeball with a knife!

      If you were blind would you care?

      • If you are blind you only get one done. Then see how it works before getting the other done. Or wait until version 3 or 4 before getting the other one done.
      • by Hatta (162192)

        Eyes are very sensitive whether you can see through them or not. Personally, I can't even manage putting eyedrops in my eyes. I'd rather sit with my eyes closed until they generate enough lubrication on their own than use eyedrops, and that can take 20 minutes or so if I'm really stoned.

        If I were totally blind, I'd probably opt for surgery. But it would have to be general anesthetic.

        • I have had eye surgery with local anesthetic. I was not that bad, in fact I don't remember much of what happened during the surgery. I was told before the surgery that the local anesthetic was also a amnesiac.
          • by durrr (1316311)

            Local anestethic is delivered as eyedrops and remove the sensation of pain from your eye.

            But before that they give you some benzodiasepides which make you, well, high, calm and amnesic.

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              Not that amnesic, I remember all of it. I especially remember kind of freaking out when they stuck the needle in my eye. But there was no pain, and I didn't feel high or disoriented, although they warned me that it was illegal for me to drive for the next 24 hours.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I've had two eye surgeries in my left eye; an artificial lens implant and a vitrectomy. There was no pain in the eye whatever with either surgery, not even post-op.

          Not being able to put eyedrops in is only a matter of your fear. Artificial tears don't hurt, neither do new contact lenses (back in 1975 when they were primitive, I couldn't use them, I tried).

          Sometimes you can't opt for a general, for the lens replacement you can't be asleep, but I would imagine with this artificial retina you would have a choi

      • This is super cool, if it works, but I'll shit golden sunshine before I let someone near my eyeball with a knife!

        If you were blind would you care?

        If you were blind, how would you know?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is super cool, if it works, but I'll shit golden sunshine before I let someone near my eyeball with a knife!

        If you were blind would you care?

        You wouldn't even see it coming!

    • by jpapon (1877296)
      I'd imagine you'd have a different opinion on knives and your eyes if you were blind.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You should try CXL surgery for a keratoconus, they don't actually cut anything but they drill away the upper layer of your cornea and you're only under local anesthetic so you see it coming. It looks just like a household drill with a small sander and works just the same. After that it's smooth sailing though and if you've gone from -3/-4 to -8/-10 in sight in less then a year you'll do pretty much anything to make it stop. I'm pretty sure a blind person would go through hell to see.

    • by hedley (8715)

      Hope you don't get cataracts then. They used a diamond scalpel on my eye to pop that acrylic lens in.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I've had that surgery. They don't use scalpels, they use needles. First they shoot ultrasound down the needle to turn the lens into goo, then extract it through the needle, then insert the artificial lens through the needle where it unrolls. Here [wikipedia.org] are photos and an explanation, which pretty much matches what the surgeon told me.

        I hope you got the CrystaLens, they can actually focus. I don't even need reading glasses and I'm 60. I used to need both contacts AND reading glasses.

    • You know it's intended for blind people, right? Also, it can't run Minecraft (yet).
    • Certain types of laser eye surgery require an incision to be made in order to temporarily fold back the surface of the eye in order to access the applicable layers with the laser. Though it certainly sounds terrifying (especially because you're awake and maintain full motor control of your eyes while this is happening) I had this done a few weeks ago and my vision is almost better than it was with my glasses.
    • by durrr (1316311)

      Don't worry, you won't see it coming.

  • by oic0 (1864384) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @05:58PM (#40679069)
    I think I'll wait for the high res apple version with retina display ;) The resolution on these bad boys blows. (disclaimer, I hate apple but couldn't help myself).
    • by otaku244 (1804244)
      ....aaaand done:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaHUpWuqNHY [youtube.com]
    • by MiniMike (234881) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:19PM (#40679329)

      You mean the iEye? Sigh.

      If such a product were available, I could imagine Apple zealots* lining up, waiting to poke their eyes out as soon as it was their turn...

      (*Not picking on all Apple users, just the extremists)

      • by medv4380 (1604309)
        Willing Test Subject. Perfect
      • by Culture20 (968837)
        ?IEye? !Ay ay ay!
      • by pspahn (1175617)

        I am suddenly fearful for my retirement years.

        I imagine loads of teenagers running around with augmented vision while I struggle to figure out how to configure the device.

        Hopefully this doesn't happen before I can afford to disappear into the mountains and just go fishing every day.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Don't worry, kid, you'll be fine. I have a CrystaLens in my left eye that gives me 20/16 vision at distance and 20/12 closeup vision. I used to have 20/400 vision. It's completely transparent to the user, as the best designs always are. I focus it just the same as a young person focuses their natural lense; no figuring anything out at all. Look at a thing, and it's in focus.

          Your problem when you get old will be the same problem my 81 year old dad has with cell phones and computers -- a fixed income and an a

  • Careful. (Score:4, Informative)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:03PM (#40679137)

    I'm always happy for research done to improve mobility and functioning for disabled people. Not enough is done to help those who are vision, mobility, or hearing impaired. That said... be really careful out there. There's way too many people who are scared by anyone who looks different. Steve Mann was recently attacked [huffingtonpost.com] for having a digital eye prothetic by employees of a McDonald's. There didn't appear to be any motive for the assault other than a fear of his prothetics. His family was with him at the time.

    I've heard similar reports of people being attacked who have brain implants to deliver electrical stimulation due to epilepsy, depression, etc. If it's visible, sooner or later some stupid neanderthal bastard's going to attack you for it. I personally think it should be a hate crime to attack a disabled (or 'augmented') person... but it's still more science fiction than science fact to our legislators to consider, I think.

    • a shouldn't mess with nature/God/et cetera attitude?

    • ...There didn't appear to be any motive for the assault other than a fear of his prothetics...

      The apparent motive was that they didn't want to be filmed and were trying to confiscate his camera. Of course many business establishments have a policy against taking pictures or video (under the guise of security and patron/employee privacy, but more likely to avoid any bad publicity).

      Unfortunatly, these folks were likely not well trained on how to handle this and as a result even worse publicity will result from this incident.

      That doesn't make this event a hate crime against people with prosthetics, though...

      My policy: you should be careful not to cry wolf when there isn't really a wolf, because when the wolf comes (and they aways do), people might have already written you off.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      Except this is invisible. If you'd watched the video linked in TFA, you'd have noticed that the implant itself is entirely hidden in the eye (and is smaller than a penny) and uses a specially modified but otherwise plain-looking pair of eyeglasses to get power.

      If you get assaulted for wearing glasses, well, we have really big problems.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Back when few wore glasses, glasses were the sign of being a nerd and we were indeed attacked, quite often. Worse than wearing glasses was wearing glasses while carrying a stack of books.

        That was back when little TV was watched (three channels black and white, cable was in the future... most thigs we take for granted were sci-fi then) and kids played outside. A kid being inside all the time watching TV and playing video games and surfing the net will make him as nersighted as reading did back then... and ju

    • by luther349 (645380)
      guess you didn't read that story. that mcdonalds was being harassed by the media. they thought the camera was for the media.
    • do you think the thugs on the corner are scared of blind granny? not at all

      but: do you think the thugs on the corner might be scared of granny with terminator style cybernetic laser eyeballs? she just has to learn how to say "hasta la vista, baby" or "i'll be back", the thugs will scatter in the wind

    • I think this is greatly different in appearance then the glasses. According to the video clip you cannot even see it. Of course they do not show the actual operation be performed, or pictures of the operation.
  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:09PM (#40679207)
    Every year, a new version will come out with less invasive surgery, better resolution, color... night mode... I hope they make these things somewhat easy to upgrade. Just imagining being able to switch visible spectrum has me wanting the future version for myself.
    • Every year, a new version will come out with less invasive surgery, better resolution, color... night mode... I hope they make these things somewhat easy to upgrade. Just imagining being able to switch visible spectrum has me wanting the future version for myself.

      This.

      Not knocking the achievement - a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, and all, however...

      Wake me when we get to the enhancement phase; I always wanted to be able to switch between vision modes like in Predator.


      The wrist blades and mini-nuke would be bitchin', too, although that might be asking a bit much...

    • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:48PM (#40679619) Homepage

      I wouldn't get your hopes up too much, they're not really doing anything to map out the neurons in the eye. They're just punching through and stimulating whatever neurons are behind that spot of the retina, which will be "close enough" to give you a low-resolution grayscale image but they haven't got a clue on how to stimulate only one type of receptors so you can have color or to map it accurately so you can have high resolution. A working eye is a helluva sensor and I suspect we'll be using night vision goggles and such to translate invisible light to visible light for many decades to come.

      • Color is admittedly a problem, but I would have thought that the brain would learn to adjust things for the positioning. At least, your brain did it once (unless every single eyeball has it's neurons laid out in exactly the same positions, which seems unlikely) and there are lots of things that your brain can take care of before it hits your stream of consciousness. I would think it's possible that ignoring the problem and letting the brain do it's thing might produce good results.

  • My mom is (was) a fine artist, and has macular degeneration. Is is almost completely blind in one eye, and half blind in the other.

    It is my wish that IPS treatments for macular repair become a reality before she dies of old age, as it is something I would really like to get for her.

    I'm not knocking the progress on this optical implant, but it only does greyscale and without serious microsurgery, will never stop being greyscale only. She needs full color to regain what she lost.

    When they can regenerate damag

    • by slew (2918) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @07:07PM (#40679771)

      I'm not knocking the progress on this optical implant, but it only does greyscale and without serious microsurgery, will never stop being greyscale only. She needs full color to regain what she lost.

      There's no reason to believe that fancy microsurgery is required in order to visualize color. As a trivial example, nearly all color digital cameras have color filter arrays embedded over a monochrome sensor (other than foveon/sigma). It's not a big stretch to imagine that a future revision of this chip could have a color filter array and your brain (visual cortex) could learn to recognize different spatial encoding patterns as different colors.

      That's similar to what your brain does now (although the retina helps by doing some type of local opponent-color coding). If the color mapping isn't easy for your brain to learn and you need a mapping more like your original mapping, in the worst case, you could even make the sensor configurable (stimulate different nerves for different colors). Although if you did this "simply" the pixels might be slightly scrambled, but that could be compensated for by using a really high resolution sensor (all cameras have multi-megapixel sensors these days), and then recoding to a lower resolution for output to the optic nerve.

      All these things can be easily done on the sensor chip itself w/o requiring more advanced surgical techniques... Ah the wonder of silicon technology...

      P.S. Dibs on the patents for this (or at least prior-art on the idea)...

      • by cnettel (836611)
        The main problem in bandiis not the chip, it is the neuron-chip interface. Just "throw a bunch of conducting needles down into the tissue and let it fuse to whatever when the wound heals" will most likely not scale to original resolution, and it will definitely have problems with color encoding.
  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:17PM (#40679297)
    They claim a 24x24 pixel image. The video shows a low-resolution grey scale video of a kid on a swing. Looks fantastic if you consider going from blind to THAT. However I paused a frame and the kids head was 12 pixels wide. So the overall image is probably at least 120 to 240 wide - many times higher resolution than the device actually produces. So the video is not actually representative. With further advancements one can hope (expect?) that the resolution will increase over the years. Gives new meaning to "retina display".
    • I watched the video as well and caught that right away. That's not the only thing they BSed though. Obviously it can only go in 1 eye, as the pixels wouldn't match up perfectly 1:1 between the eyes so the user would be disoriented and have no depth perception. It says that the glasses contain the power source which is rechargeable and shine a laser into your eye. I hope it doesn't miss that impossibly small device and keep hitting your organic cells. I'm sure it'd be fine if you never ever ever move yo
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I watched the video as well and caught that right away.

        Well, I'm not saying their video isn't overrepresenting the acuity, but it's not near as bad as your naive assumptions lead you to conclude.

        The retina doesn't have anything like resolution the vision system as a whole does (FFS, there's a blind spot, but there's no "hole" in perception except in specially contrived circumstances.) -- while this implant is certainly worse than a healthy retina, your fixational eye movements will give substantially better than resolution than a 24x24px video.

        That's not the only thing they BSed though. Obviously it can only go in 1 eye, as the pixels wouldn't match up perfectly 1:1 between the eyes so the user would be disoriented and have no depth perception.

        Your retinas don'

      • by Jeremi (14640) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @10:07PM (#40681025) Homepage

        Obviously it can only go in 1 eye, as the pixels wouldn't match up perfectly 1:1 between the eyes so the user would be disoriented and have no depth perception

        Don't underestimate the brain's power to figure out the distortion in sensory inputs and compensate for them. For example, there was that study where subjects wore mirrored glasses so that everything they saw was upside down -- within a day or two they didn't even notice (until they took the glasses off, anyway, at which point they had to re-adapt again).

        A more likely reason to limit the procedure to one eye would be to avoid having to double the price to $120,000 for only minimal additional benefit.

        • A more likely reason to limit the procedure to one eye would be to avoid having to double the price to $120,000 for only minimal additional benefit.

          that is why you get it done in one eye and then wait until generation 2 or 3 comes out to do the other. then there will be a larger benefit

    • When humans view stuff their eyes constantly move. The brain stitches all the images together to get a great view of whats going on. The human eye really isn't that great of a camera but it is connected to the greatest image processing software in the universe. Since the sensor implants directly into the optic nerve I bet the human brain can make the most of the sensor and people with the implant can see better than you think.

      • by asdf7890 (1518587)

        but it is connected to the greatest image processing software in the universe

        ... that we know of. There might be better that we've not found on this planet, in fact there almost certainly is better for various definitions of better, before even considering elsewhere in the universe.

    • by sootman (158191)

      Even 24x24 would be enough to help you navigate around as you walk. That would be a HUGE step up from being blind. Also, by moving your eye around a bit, you could probably get more effective detail--like how if you move your head while looking through showerglass you can get a better idea of what's behind it.* Or, you can be standing near the frame of a door that's open 2mm and by moving your head back and forth you can get a pretty good idea of what's on the other side.**

      OK, better example: watch some rea

    • by pgn674 (995941)
      Here is a representative image to compare: Pixelated Kid - Imgur [imgur.com]
    • would be interesting to see what the upgrade cycle will be on this for patients as resolution increases and color perception is added.

  • Some day, these will evolve into incredible resolutions and better sharpness and viewing angles technically possible with analog eyes. Add some good interfaces for displaying synthetic signals without cameras, and you'll have the perfect monitor. I think I saw the research for this stuff in late 90's, so turning research into mass-market products seems to have at least a decade of delay. The current research stuff being direct brain implants not only for eyesight, but sending and reading nerve signals direc

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:22PM (#40679359)

    So wonderful! My grandfather went blind towards the end of his life, or nearly so. Having sight again would have been something he dearly would have liked for reading. I hope this continues to advance and quickly for all those who are sight impaired.

  • by Cosgrach (1737088) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:26PM (#40679405)

    Is just *why* the blind are using lasers!

  • by erice (13380) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:27PM (#40679415) Homepage

    Never mind the parts that the author did not feel were important enough to mention:
    1) the lasers
    2) The power source for the lasers

    Last I checked, standard corrective lenses didn't have anything batteries, electronics, or even the raw materials to make power sources or electronics.

    They are just regular sharks. Well, apart from the friggin lasers on top of their heads!

  • by jxander (2605655) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:32PM (#40679469)

    Eyes ain't the only thing being replaced by tech

    A buddy of mine is a type 1 diabetic; he was simply born with a faulty pancreas. For the majority of his life, he dealt with constant insulin injections, as typical for a diabetic. A few years back however, he was upgraded to an external pump. It looks just like an old beeper, and plugs into a semi-permanent* injection point under his shirt. Whenever he eats, he just has to push a few buttons on the pump and it steadily drips the correct amount of insulin into his blood stream

    Of course, a pancreas isn't nearly as complex as an eye, so I'm glad to see science and medicine marching onward. Given that these advancements have happened in just a few short years, has me excited to see what will happen in this field within the next decade or so.

    *semi-permanent: He stab himself once every few days, and there's a whole bracketing system roughly the size of a silver dollar that glues onto his skin and keeps the needle/tubing at the correct depth.

  • by squidflakes (905524) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:36PM (#40679521) Homepage

    If their power comes from a photovoltaic chip on corrective lenses, does that mean that you're going to wake-up blind every morning?

  • Hopefully improved (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tsotha (720379) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @06:53PM (#40679659)

    I'm hoping not only that resolution improves (and color, naturally), but why stop there? I wouldn't mind being able to see in UV bands and a telescopic lens would be nice.

    • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Tuesday July 17, 2012 @07:20PM (#40679889)
      You might find that the 576 pixels gives the patients better vision than you'd imagine. They'll not be driving or reading any small-print, but our eyes are not massively high res to start with and the brain does a ton of work to scan them around to put the scene together and enhancing the result "post-production". Of course compared to blind even if it isn't all that good it'll still be a massively life changing improvement.

      Just think: in a few decades time "you'll go blind" will no longer be a threat to 14 years olds...
    • My blind colleague would just like to read the article without it blowing up his text-to-speech software!

  • After a lot of theorizing, posturing, and non-human trials, it looks like bionic eye implants are finally hitting the market â" first in Europe, and hopefully soon in the U.S.

    Europeans shall play guinea pig for Americans.

  • The Bio-Retina system comes with a standard pair of corrective lenses that are modified so that they can fire a near-infrared laser beam through your iris to the sensor at the back of your eye.

    From the subject, you obviously know where I'm going with this...

  • A resolution of 576 pixels is better than nothing, but I'm going to wait for a Retina display.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Careful to not take that into McDonalds.

  • Since it's 576 lines, it must be PAL, which means she's seeing stuff happen with a speedup of about 4.271%.
    Give it a few weeks and she'll know the lottery numbers before they're drawn.

  • Why do they get this stuff before we do in the US, with our world-beating health care system?

    Maybe there wouldn't be enough profit for insurance companies if we had it here...

  • I'm reading this through my occasional early-morning fuzzies caused by my date with destiny: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuchs'_dystrophy [wikipedia.org] Could be worse, but my perspective is biaseed.
  • I made a bet with a co-worker back in 2004 that bionic implants would be available in the next ten years. Although, five dollars isn't what it used to be...

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