Print 14 comment(s) - last by foolsgambit11.. on Apr 1 at 5:56 PM

The BVA electronic eyeball consists of a glasses-mounted camera, a pocket processor, and an electrode chip, implanted in the eye, which receives wireless signals.  (Source: BVA)

BVA is planning a second generation "high-definition" implant that will restore patients to 20/80 vision. That implant should be ready by 2013.  (Source: BVA)
Blindness will be cured by technology

Advances in chemistry and electronics promise to conquer many of the most serious diseases afflicting mankind.  One example prime example is vision loss.  Today a number of groups are racing to develop a high-definition electronic eyeball, or to become the first to regrow a biological eye.

One team looking to create an electronics-driven cure to blindness is Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) and its academic partner, the University of New South Wales.  The pair unveiled their "first advanced prototype", the culmination of efforts financed by a $42M USD research grant from the Australian government.

The advanced prototype consists of a glasses-mounted video camera, a pocket-mounted processor, and a wireless electrode chip mounted inside the eyeball.  They pocket processor is referred to as "wireless" in that it communicates wirelessly with the electrode chip, though it is wired to the video camera.

The electrode chip contains 98 electrodes which stimulate cells on the optical nerve.  Unfortunately, this means that the chip can only currently help the vision impaired with intact optical nerves.  The technology could eventually complement optical nerve regeneration techniques (such as stem cell regrowth) to help additional victims of vision loss.

Anthony Burkitt, BVA's research director and an engineering professor at the University of Melbourne, states in a press release, "We anticipate that this retinal implant will provide users with increased mobility and independence, and that future versions of the implant will eventually allow recipients to recognize faces and read large print."

The 98 electrode allows for crude shape recognition.  Combined with an advanced image recognition and logical planning processor (the human brain), it should allow a person with vision impairments to navigate many settings without a cane or seeing eye dog.  

A second generation prototype is in the works, which would contain close to 1,000 electrodes in a 36 by 36 electrode array.  The second gen device would allow for face recognition and much better object detail.  It will give patients roughly 20/80 vision.

Leighton Boyd, president of Retina Australia, knows about vision loss first hand.  He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 5, a degenerative vision disorder that leads to blindness.  He hopes to be among the first recipients of prototype implants, which should be ready in 2011.

BVA says their second generation implant will be available in 2013.  Clinical trials are scheduled to be performed at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne.  

Eventually, ocular implants may become as routine as the yearly phone upgrade to the next gen smartphone of your choice.  Today the implants can only deliver a crude recreation of the form of vision granted by biology, but they eventually may be able to deliver better than 20/20 vision by ditching the imperfections of the human eyeball and delivering feeds from high resolution optics directly into the visual nerve.

Electronic eyeballs could also offer big leaps in the world of robotics and artificial intelligence.

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I'm sorry, but...
By amanojaku on 3/31/2010 4:42:34 PM , Rating: 3
I can't call it advanced if I can't mentally switch vision modes from:

1) Fully clothed
2) P-p-p-p-panties
3) Om nom nom nom!!!

Seriously, though this is one area of research I'm glad to see advancing.

RE: I'm sorry, but...
By ChrisHF on 3/31/2010 4:49:38 PM , Rating: 5
Either that or cycling thought all the vision modes that The Predator's system gives him access to.

RE: I'm sorry, but...
By bissimo on 3/31/2010 5:08:51 PM , Rating: 5
Wow! I've never seen a thread geeked up so quickly and efficiently. Kudos!

RE: I'm sorry, but...
By shin0bi272 on 3/31/2010 7:14:27 PM , Rating: 1
or like Geordi in star trek first contact... ocular implants that can focus and see in different wavelengths.

RE: I'm sorry, but...
By foolsgambit11 on 4/1/2010 5:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
I assume you were gigged for going straight to ocular implants from the visor? Either way, the ability to adjust the "visible" spectrum of light has always fascinated me. I'd love to see what the world around me really looks like.

By MBlueD on 4/1/2010 7:54:34 AM , Rating: 2
Can we stream video feeds directly to the implant?
On the other hand, if hacked, a 3rd party can practically show you anything and you wouldn't know...

RE: Wireless
By magneticfield on 4/1/2010 9:03:01 AM , Rating: 2
The future looks bright for this technology.
Imagine an wireless HDMI input in the future, or a built-in PlayStation ... they will game or watch movies whenever they want without the need to stare at a huge screen.
Navigation systems can be deployed in such devices, with augmented reality and all kinds of location-based services.

I so want one!

RE: Wireless
By geddarkstorm on 4/1/2010 1:00:40 PM , Rating: 2
The future looks bright for this technology.

I see what you did there

RE: Wireless
By tmouse on 4/1/2010 9:02:03 AM , Rating: 2
One step closer to section 9 and the laughing man

RE: Wireless
By Cr0nJ0b on 4/1/2010 10:53:54 AM , Rating: 2
All your bases are belong to us...

RE: Wireless
By stirfry213 on 4/1/2010 12:32:08 PM , Rating: 3
Your geek license has been revoked for screwing up that quote... shame on you.

Swell PR
By deanx0r on 3/31/2010 6:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
Man, this probably the worst time of the year to make a press release because you never know whether you should take them seriously and handle them millions in investment or have a good laugh.

Interesting possibilities
By sonoran on 3/31/2010 8:21:41 PM , Rating: 2
Since the device that senses the light is outside the eye, users could conceivably switch from a daylight imager to an infrared imager for night use. In an ironic twist, "blind" people could someday end up able to see better after dark than the rest of us.

By FaceMaster on 4/1/2010 8:39:50 AM , Rating: 2
Hurry up science, invent better than normal eyes before I accidentally poke my eyes out or stare at the sun!

Might as well add some artificial ears and legs on as well. I'm sure that being a robot isn't out of the question, give it 50 years or so.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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