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The camera system developed by the EPI-RET project communicates wirelessly with a fully implantable retinal stimulator to give the blind partial vision.  (Source: Fraunhofer IOF)

The implant, viewed here, is tiny and flexible. It features an array of 5x5 electrodes to send images via retinal stimulation.  (Source: Fraunhofer IOF)

A computer generated image of the new compound eye's field of vision. The overlapping views up the resolution many times, allowing for smaller and more powerful image sensors.  (Source: Fraunhofer IOF)
Scientists are conquering some of the greatest challenges in the field of vision

Previously, DailyTech reported on Second Sight Vision's efforts to bring partial vision to the blind through wireless retinal implants.  The company has a strong competitor, though.  Researchers at Aachen University Clinic and the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits in Germany are pursuing a similar line of research and have also been experiencing strong results.

The Institute's EPI-RET project has been running for 12 years and has sought to find ways to offer relief to the over 30 million people suffering from retinal diseases.  In September 2007, during a clinical study with six patients, it was shown that the group's completely implantable vision prosthesis both was feasible and allowed patients to perceive visual images.

Dr. Hoc Khiem Trieu from the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in Duisburg comments, "For normally sighted people that may not seem much, but for the Blind, it is a major step.  After years of blindness, the patients were able to see spots of light or geometric patterns, depending on how the nerve cells were stimulated."

The project has been funded by
the German Ministry of Education and Research.  Dr. Trieu worked closely with colleagues Dr. Ingo Krisch and Dipl.-Ing. Michael Görtz and medical professionals to translating medical specifications into an engineered implant.

The researchers state that the major breakthrough is making the system's communication wireless.  Says
Dr. Ingo Krisch, "A milestone was reached when the prosthetic system finally operated wirelessly and remotely controlled.  A great deal of detailed work was necessary before the implant could be activated without any external cable connections."

Görtz adds, "The designs became smaller and smaller, the materials more flexible, more robust and higher in performance, so that the implant now fits comfortably in the eye."

Similar to the Second Sight Vision implant, the EPI-RET implant utilizes a CMOS camera in glasses frames to capture images.  This image is then transferred to the implant wirelessly, which stimulates retinal cells.  The implant consists of an array of 25 electrodes (5x5) connected to ganglion cells.  This falls somewhere between Second Sight Vision's original model used in clinical tests, which used a 4x4 grid of electrodes, and its current model, which has an asymmetric 10x6 grid.

The EPI-RET project team hopes to up the number of electrodes in the finished project.  Their Institute has created a spin-off
EPI-RET GmbH, which seeks to market the technology.  After another round of clinical trials, the implants are expected to be offered commercially within three years, according to researchers.  While some might dismiss this team's parallel efforts, it promises to make the field of ocular implants more competitive.

And that’s not the only vision advance that the Germans are cooking up.  Researchers at the
Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena are working on developing an ultra thin imaging sensor, which acts as a compound eye and is modeled after insect eyes in nature.  Researcher Andreas Brückner is leading the effort to look at ways to dramatically improve the accuracy of existing imaging sensors by adopting compound eye algorithms, allow the sensors to be potential shrunk, while keeping equivalent accuracy.

Insect eyes, while not high resolution, perceive the world in great detail.  This is due to a phenomenon known as hyperacuity.  As the visual fields of adjacent facets overlap, the eyes see more than the resolution itself.  The result is a higher effective resolution than the physical resolution when the images are processed. 
Andreas Brückner is working to mimic the phenomena in a man-made imaging system.

Andreas Brückner states, "The aim was to develop micro-optical compound eyes which contain numerous parallel imaging channels and which are also extremely compact, thinner than 0.5 millimeters"

After creating a multifaceted sensor,
Brückner analyzed the angular sensitivity of the facets.  By overlapping, based on this analysis, the sensor is able to determine positions from 2D images much more accurately than its resolution would otherwise allow.  In a comparison a 50 x 50 pixel image sensor set up as a compound eye could detect spatial relations equivalent to a traditional 625 x 625 pixel sensor.

The improved resolution will allow sensors to be shrunk.  It will also offer better object recognition, size and position analysis, and movement tracking.  All of these are invaluable advances to industrial and robotics applications.

According to the institute commercialization is well underway.  It states that current tracks include "
solar altitude sensors in automobiles, for recognizing traffic lanes in driver assistance systems, and in machine vision."

With the exciting groundbreaking efforts in vision research in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere, it seems that many sight related diseases are approaching partial cures, and that sighted applications like robotics will undergo dramatic improvements, implementing new designs.

Comments     Threshold

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By Tsuwamono on 6/3/2008 11:48:57 AM , Rating: 3
We can rebuild him...

RE: ...
By FITCamaro on 6/3/2008 11:55:04 AM , Rating: 4
We don't have the technology.....yet!

I want Jordi's eyes.

RE: ...
By Polynikes on 6/3/2008 12:13:51 PM , Rating: 5
I'd just like a simple zoom feature. 4x would suffice.

RE: ...
By jadeskye on 6/3/2008 12:20:56 PM , Rating: 2
This would inevitably lead to technology that would allow you to see through clothes...

Bring it on! XD

RE: ...
By MrBlastman on 6/3/2008 12:24:43 PM , Rating: 5
You can already do that with a little water... >:)

RE: ...
By JonnyDough on 6/4/2008 8:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
That depends entirely on the clothes. If Benetio Mussolini were around today stirring up trouble, maybe we (cross out we, I meant YOU) could try to convince him that a white shirt gang would be a bit more fashionable than his "black shirt gang", especially if his people were marching in the rain.

RE: ...
By Visual on 6/3/2008 12:42:46 PM , Rating: 2
but if this happened, it would lead to clothes that block X-ray, infra-red and what-have-you rays...

tinfoil bra, here i come.

RE: ...
By tastyratz on 6/3/2008 9:32:48 PM , Rating: 2
enjoy your tinfoil bra.
xray through infrared (aka nightvision) has been a camcorder trickery hack for many years, it actually already exists. I certainly dont plan on selling my old handycam with "lens protecting filter: anytime soon ;-)

RE: ...
By Bruneauinfo on 6/3/2008 11:05:38 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, but that would lead me to spend most of the time wanting that feature turned off.

RE: ...
By Ringold on 6/4/2008 1:26:24 AM , Rating: 1
Perhaps it can be switched on and off with a command phrase.

Hillary Clinton walking towards you? Leave it off.

Jessica Alba? "Cheesy puffs!"

RE: ...
By TimberJon on 6/3/2008 3:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
I would second that, but 2x would be fine with me.

RE: ...
By Smartless on 6/3/2008 3:25:51 PM , Rating: 5
Occular Implants.

"Nuclear Launch Detected"

RE: ...
By AlvinCool on 6/3/2008 2:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
Don't you really want his visor?

RE: ...
By Tsuwamono on 6/3/2008 2:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
his eyes are so much cooler.

RE: ...
By mezman on 6/3/2008 5:24:25 PM , Rating: 2
But his eyes are busted. Do you mean his visor contacts from the movies?

RE: ...
By Ringold on 6/4/2008 1:27:20 AM , Rating: 2
Watch all the movies. He has no visor at all, ultimately.

RE: ...
By captchaos2 on 6/4/2008 2:29:57 AM , Rating: 2
Forget Jordi's eyes, I want Batou's eyes. Ghost in the Shell is almost prophetic.

RE: ...
By Hydrofirex on 6/4/2008 8:38:50 PM , Rating: 2
Ghost in the Shell is Prophetic - period. If you see no other piece of Japanese Animation this would be the one if only because of it's relevance. Prosthetics as a whole is developing rapidly. I think it's pretty easy to say that human augmentation is a given at this point - not that I'm saying it's going to be super-human battles in the streets next week. Besides, the possibilities of information connectivity are far more empowering and compelling.

Serial Experiments Lain is another influential Anime which touches on similar ideas. Aeon Flux (Not the movie dear god!) actually delves into this a lot deeper than I initially realized too.

You can have all eye's - I'll take Aeon or Motoko.


RE: ...
By Hydrofirex on 6/4/2008 8:45:13 PM , Rating: 2


(And yes, you CAN have all eye's )

Eye spy.
By sporr on 6/3/2008 1:00:13 PM , Rating: 2
The image for this thread, on the front page, very eye catching!

Pun intended. Sorry!

On a real note, It won't be too long before we are visiting a small chinese man near a market, on a very rainy day, for new eye's.

RE: Eye spy.
By sporr on 6/3/2008 1:08:52 PM , Rating: 4
Jason Mick, please link us to the owner of that eye, it is lovely. Thank you.

RE: Eye spy.
By MozeeToby on 6/3/2008 1:42:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure, but I suspect that it is CG.

RE: Eye spy.
By maverick85wd on 6/3/2008 5:40:33 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not sure, but I suspect he wants to see the rest of her- not the eye.

RE: Eye spy.
By maverick85wd on 6/3/2008 5:49:15 PM , Rating: 2
o damn. she's CGI as well. Don't I look smart.

RE: Eye spy.
By spuddyt on 6/4/2008 9:06:50 AM , Rating: 2
at least you didn't think he was looking at the fly's eyes

RE: Eye spy.
By MozeeToby on 6/4/2008 1:18:14 PM , Rating: 2
I have to retract my earlier comment that the eye was CGI, I was walking though target the other day and saw season 1 of the Bionic Woman. It appears to be the lead actresses eye, I'm sure you can track down who it is but I don't recall.

RE: Eye spy.
By eye smite on 6/4/2008 12:03:13 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I don't see this appealing to anyone with common sense.

I'll be honest...
By Quiescent on 6/3/2008 1:33:04 PM , Rating: 2
I can only see out of one eye due to microthalmia. It would be nice to see what it's like to see out of two eyes. I was born with seeing out of one eye, but it would be cool to use my other eye for seeing things that none of you guys can! :P

RE: I'll be honest...
By saiga6360 on 6/3/2008 2:23:20 PM , Rating: 2
I guess this will allow blind people to see in... wireframe? :)

I guess I'm ok with that... just no bloom ok?

RE: I'll be honest...
By Silver2k7 on 6/3/2008 4:25:56 PM , Rating: 2
perhaps best to wait a few years until they sort out the issues.. right this moment it seems to be only able to detect shapes and light.. hopefully we will one day have artificial eyes with better than normal sight.

RE: I'll be honest...
By Pipperox on 6/3/2008 4:59:54 PM , Rating: 2
I'm really sorry.
But you wouldn't be able to see with the other eye anyway, because being born with only one working eye, your brain didn't develop the necessary functionality for the other one, so even with an implant, your brain wouldn't know what to do with that information.

RE: I'll be honest...
By JohnnyCNote on 6/3/2008 7:13:17 PM , Rating: 2
I can only see out of one eye due to microthalmia. It would be nice to see what it's like to see out of two eyes.

I lost the use of my left eye after I was assaulted by 4 youths with clubs, breaking my glasses and forcing glass into my eye. It took me a long time to adjust to losing depth perception as it shows up in a lot of unexpected ways. I used to walk into walls until I got into the habit of putting my hand out as I approached anything.

Another problem is the lost of peripheral vision on the left. When I drive, I have to turn my whole body around to see, especially when pulling out into traffic. It's complicated by the fact my neck is messed up after a car accident (2 blocks from where I was assaulted). Other than that, however, I've had very little trouble with driving.

I've had a number of surgeries, but nothing has restored any usable vision. I'm going to ask my ophthalmologist about this next time I see him . . .

RE: I'll be honest...
By Quiescent on 6/4/2008 12:36:27 AM , Rating: 2
Being born with seeing out of one eye, I would be more capable of handling than when you get into an accident.

Yes, I do have depth perception problems, and it's really different when I think about it, but how I make up is like this:

For the normal human being, the center of their vision lines up with their nose. They see with two eyes to get a wide viewing range.

For me, I center my vision with the center of my only good eye, so it does look different to people who see me cock my head to do so.

Of course the only way to really replace my left eye is to do just like that one girl in Doomsday. Now that would be awesome.

Essentially I have an eye there, though it doesn't grow and nor can I see from it, and I do wear a prosthesis, but it might be repairable, I don't know.

But I still would like to have an eye like that one girl in Doomsday. Really awesome.

RE: I'll be honest...
By JohnnyCNote on 6/4/2008 9:26:54 AM , Rating: 2
Are your cornea and lens intact?

By Graviton on 6/3/2008 7:26:14 PM , Rating: 1
My ocular implant firmware has been infected with spyware and now I can't see anything but porno popups!

(Haha ok not possible.. but still :P)

RE: Nooooo...
By fonzdaman on 6/3/2008 9:21:52 PM , Rating: 2
This is awsome. Good to read about steady advancements in the artificial compound eye.

Perhaps one day the blind could hire films and watch it straight from their artificial eyeballs, sorta like ^ comment

..."Transformers anyone?" says one. "Negative dude, im gonna crank Rambo on" says the other :D

RE: Nooooo...
By Ringold on 6/4/2008 1:42:14 AM , Rating: 2
Never say its not possible! Who knows how many years it'll take, but the trend seems clear to me. Ultimately, we'll all have the option of ocular implants as upgrades, auditory upgrades, and probably even a full-blown computer capable of interacting with our thoughts in some way and controling all our other upgrades components. I don't see why it's not possible. All that is missing is more miniaturization and a better understanding of how the brain works. The former is a perpetual process, and the latter I can't imagine will elude us forever.

And with any computer, could have pop-ups, spyware, virii, etc... Though I'd assume/hope it would be more secure than, say, Windows ME. And more stable.

RE: Nooooo...
By JonnyDough on 6/4/2008 8:54:41 PM , Rating: 2
You must be running Windows OI (Ocular Implant v. 1.0, upgrade!). I for one thought your comment was funny. :-P

Watch out...
By DASQ on 6/3/2008 1:39:13 PM , Rating: 2
... for the interceptors!

Corporations start implanting wireless implants transparent to the 'client'.

RE: Watch out...
By DanoruX on 6/4/2008 11:57:25 AM , Rating: 2
Or into people doing porn for true first person perspectives....

Old news
By glitchc on 6/3/2008 9:47:42 PM , Rating: 2
This is old news. The papers detailing the system were published in 2003 along with preliminary clinical trials.

No thanks for the opinions.
By JonnyDough on 6/4/2008 8:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
With the exciting groundbreaking efforts in vision research in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere, it seems that many sight related diseases are approaching partial cures, and that sighted applications like robotics will undergo dramatic improvements, implementing new designs.

Readers really don't care about your opinion. Just the facts ma'am. Besides, this isn't a CURE, it's a SOLUTION. There IS a difference. A cure stops disease after it starts. A solution is an answer to a problem.

Retinal implants may provide a solution for the blind, but it isn't curing the disease in their natural eyes. Please stop adding your 2 cents to articles and let us think for ourselves.


By root mean sq on 6/5/2008 3:23:13 AM , Rating: 2
Does EPI-RET stand for epic retina?

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs
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