Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Aussie Government Offers $40M To Build a Bionic Eye

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the the-6-million-dollar-man-should-cash-in dept.

Biotech 89

An anonymous reader writes "The Australian Government is keen to replicate the success of the Cochlear Implant (bionic ear) by throwing AU$50M (US$40M) of funding at the development of a bionic eye. Bionic eyes have been trialed with some success in the UK — with recipients able to detect senses of shape and space, but very little detail."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Yesss (1, Redundant)

delta419 (1227406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182665)

WANT

Re:Yesss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28185491)

Here comes the first chance for me to actually be like Garrett the Master Thief

$50M for an Eye...Really? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28182703)

Wow, and a car that gets 100 MPG is only worth $10M. Someone may have their priorities mixed up.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182903)

Well, this would be of direct benefit to potentially millions of blind people, even if it's very crude. Fuel efficient cars are of benefit to many times more people but in a less direct way.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (5, Insightful)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183379)

Supposedly there are 50,000 blind people in Australia.

http://www.bca.org.au/natpol/statistics/2005_Blind_Stats_num_and_perc_by_State_Territory_CERA.htm

$50,000,000 breaks down to $1000/blind person.

I'd guess that the cost in social services to help blind people probably exceeds $1000/yr per person (i.e. well over $50,000,000). Therefore it would make economic sense to cure blindness.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186211)

and... wouldn't you know that it is also directly nice to thousands of people as well and would have an immediate positive impact on medical "tourism" to Australia. Developing a more efficient vehicle only puts Australia on par with the rest of the world... but wait, they pretty much are anyway--developing a better bionic eye than the UK puts them ahead and boosts their economy.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192959)

50,000 blind people in Australia, and roughly 40,000 of these are politicians!

Eyes are worth more (4, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183687)

I disagree. A bionic eye is worth much more than a car that gets 100mpg.

1) Economical diesel cars already get close to that, so if car owners become really interested, it will be built without the need of a prize. If you go pure biodiesel you might even be able to meet the 200g/mile emissions requirement if it is a "net calculation".
2) A car that gets 100mpg from fossil fuels might end up a mere curiosity if we ever shift big time from fossil fuels to something else other than biofuels.

In contrast a working bionic eye is going to be useful for as long as humans (or other similar creatures) want eyes.

An efficient biofuel car is useful, but it by itself will not deal with the problem of starving out the poor - because as long as the rich are many times richer than the numerous poor, they can afford to pay a lot more to feed their cars so they wouldn't feel the pressure. It would likely need external regulation to make them care.

Here's some rough math:

Recommended energy per person: 2000 kcal = 8.36 megajoules /day.

1 litre of vegetable oil = 34MJ - or about the daily energy allowance for 4 people.
1 litre of vegetable => approximately USD1.

How much would a rich (e.g. anyone who can afford a car) person be willing to pay per day to feed his car? USD2? If he can afford to pay more than 8 poor people, the 8 poor people are going to get less food assuming we don't keep converting forests to farmland.

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183757)

I just wish you could feed four people on one litre of vegetable oil.

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184229)

I just wish you could feed four people on one litre of vegetable oil.

Is it any better than one liter of high fructose corn syrup?

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184639)

Not for very long and that's the problem :).

10 square metres of oil palm produces 1 litre of vegetable oil per year.

So let's say 3650 square metres to produce 1 litre per day.

A similar size area (in suitable climate) should be able to produce 4 tons of bananas per year (assuming no petro-fertilizers etc). That's about 9800kcal per day (assuming 90kcal/100g bananas). Keep a few chickens around for protein, grow stuff under the banana trees, maybe have a small fish pond.

They might do OK till someone kicks them off for a biofuel plantation...

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

Trahloc (842734) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191665)

Yeah, permaculture is extremely dense and gives great variety of crops. It may or may not ever replace large farming industries like wheat farming. But a few acres of community farming? Easily done with the right training and now you've got a population that can feed itself with a whole variety of different fods, even have chickens/ducks for protein.

Although personally I like the idea of aquaponics, not as dense but simpler and I love the idea of feeding fish who feed bacteria who then feed fruits, herbs, and veggies all in your backyard.

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#28185229)

You can, but then they'll all have the shits.

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

codemaster2b (901536) | more than 5 years ago | (#28187313)

You can, and in some places of the world, they do. Oil is mixed with mud and baked in the sun into cookies. This is actual sustenance for the poor in Haiti. See http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/01/080130-AP-haiti-eatin_2.html [nationalgeographic.com]

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28187455)

That is both fascinating and disturbing. Thanks for the link, though.

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183885)

A bionic eye might be better than a car that does better than 100mpg but would it be better than high capacity long life batteries and electric cars?

Re:Eyes are worth more (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184137)

Depends on how good the eyes are ;). If we have really good eyes, we might spend less energy on lighting...

Seriously though, if the eyes are good, it could become practical for people to add an "aux video in" (or two). That could dramatically change things more than high capacity batteries.

Why bother with energy guzzling LCDs for laptops if you can just strap on a small brick computer (iBrain? ;) ) and have the display appear in your mind. Then you can send the image(s) straight to someone else. Virtual telepathy! Hope the copyright laws will allow more sharing if we ever get to that stage - or our auxiliary brains will be DRM infested.

As for long life batteries. Many scientists claim the cold fusion stuff doesn't generate excess heat, even if it doesn't, it might turn out to be a new type of battery - and that's worth exploring too IMO. Of course if it does generate excess heat then :).

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191377)

Heh, Heh, of course bionic eyes are worthless without high capacity batteries, hmm ;).

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

Trahloc (842734) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191683)

You my friend are the copper top. [cnet.co.uk]

Re:Eyes are worth more (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192887)

The reality is a high capacity, long life and low cost batteries will have a major change across the whole of society, from the obvious reduction in pollution of urban environment with all electric transport (the electricity could be generated hundreds of kilometres away from high population urban centres) an extreme improvement in human health, the making of intermittent alternate energy resources far more viable by storing between 20 to 48 hours of average energy needs at the point of use the home, 24 hour batteries for computers all portable all of the time and, much more effectively mobilising and empowering the disabled as in the energy required for bionic limbs.

So in reality better batteries are one of the most important current goals in human society upon a global basis and, should be a real focus of government and should be done upon an open patent basis to prevent the economic losses that would be felt through out the whole of human society by paying for inflated patent costs and delaying the application of what is vital technology.

Re:Eyes are worth more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28191045)

Just a heads-up, 2000kcal/day is reference energy per person-day, not recommended. For example, I'm about six feet tall and moderately active (I walk to and from university from off-campus), and it takes an estimated 3500kcal/day to keep me from losing weight; while I'm not certain that that's a bad thing (I'm not gaunt or anything), I'm not going to get below a maintenance diet of 3000kcal/day without becoming a lot more sedentary and probably losing some muscle.

The reference caloric intake is mostly there to generalize the RDA for specific nutrients, not to be a target.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28184263)

Would you swap one of your eyes for a car that went 100 MPG? Didn't think so.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (1)

TikiTDO (759782) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184953)

You ignore another, more far reaching benefit to bionic eyes. There is a lot of information in the world that we, as humans, simply cannot access at this time, such as the most obvious examples of IR/UV light. When the technology is in its infancy we may not get as much of a return on the investment as we would for other developments, however, as it progresses it could open up entirely new realms of senses.

Wouldn't it be nice to see the sun set in a full spectrum, or have a monitor built into your eye, or maybe even have 360 degree field of vision by adding a few more cameras? On the other hand, a 100 MPG car would certainly beat what I'm driving right now, but in the end the monopolies that rule the industry would still raise prices to keep up their profit margins, and we would still be drilling for oil, albeit a bit slower.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28189105)

we would still be drilling for oil, albeit a bit slower.

Nope. The same speed. People would find a way to spend more.

Every time a new set of roads, some large tunnel or some such is built in my city, newspapers say "This will reduce the traffic jams". In theory yes but in practice it seems that it just ends up meaning that people use more cars.

There were claims that "yeah, you can bring stronger drinks to the grocery stores" (which aren't allowed to sell anything stronger than beer here) "People will just buy less". Well, it was tried and people ended up buying just as much of the stronger drinks.

I could go on and on with examples but I feel quite certain that if people needed less oil for driving, there would be less demand, stronger competition in the oil/gas station industry (because they have the infrastructure in place, they can get the material and want to get it sold), prices would drop and then people would be more willing to drive more. If the offset wouldn't be enough, more products would be made from plastic, etc... Until any benefits would have been nullified.

Well, people would get to drive more (and that would indirectly affect a lot of things in the economy) and perhaps get more stuff so not completely nullified... But there would be no benefit for the enviroment.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28189259)

You can do that (theoretically) with contact lenses. I want zoom and recording.

Re:$50M for an Eye...Really? (1)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186945)

What good is a car to drive you to the strip club if you cannot SEE the strippers when you get there!

Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182705)

Fortunately, I was already digging up Jaime Sommers' corpse for other uses.

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (2, Funny)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182859)

Idiot. She didn't have a Bionic eye. She had Bionic Hearing. It was Steve Austin that had the Bionic Eye.

Oh, and you're sick!

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183917)

Idiot. She didn't have a Bionic eye.

She actually ended up with upgraded night vision. And parent is wrong for not wanting a corpse, but wrong because Jaime Sommers is not dead. In fact, if he wants to mess with the bionic women (gen 1) he will have to deal with the six million dollar man [wikipedia.org] as they got married in the end.

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28185643)

The failed do over for the show had a cutie too. Wasn't there some other bionic women (maybe gen 2-3?) that was a lot faster then Jamie? Some TV movie. I remember Jamie running and getting beat bad by the new girl.

OK I am old and liked the old and new show. Not so much the 6 million dollar man though.

And the new Starbuck (I forget her name (Katie Sackoff?)) was in the new Bionic woman show as well.

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186521)

The new girl was Sandra Bullock in a pre-Speed role. Still not as hot as the original model, though.

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192141)

I have a soft spot for Lindsay Wagner. If you want to see her at her sultry best watch the movie The Paper Chase [imdb.com] . They simply do not make good character study movies like this any more.

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (2, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28188897)

Fortunately, I was already digging up Jaime Sommers' corpse for other uses.

Oh, and you're sick!

He's a forensics expert. What's so sick about.. oh, now I get what you thought he meant. Who would want to use a corpse for the carpool lane? You're sick!

Re:Jamie Sommers joke (0)

tyroneking (258793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182995)

Son: Mum, is Lindsay Wagner really bionic?
Mother: No, of course not. Why?
Son: Because Dad said he could screw the ass of her any-day...

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183637)

Fortunately, I was already digging up Jaime Sommers' corpse for other uses."

Why? She's not dead [wikipedia.org] ...not the character, nor the person.

Remember? She didn't really die...she was frozen till they could cure her, and when she came back, she didn't remember loving Steve, and went off on her own adventures in her Bionic Woman show.

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184013)

The bionic woman (version 1) and bionic man [wikipedia.org] rekindled their romance and got married in the end. Sandra Bullock was going to take over, before she got famous.

Re:Just give me a week and I'll have it to you (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186373)

Damn. All that digging for nothing.

we don't need a "bionic eye" (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182711)

we need a brain interface for said eye which we already have. We call it a CCD camera.

Re:we don't need a "bionic eye" (2)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182829)

You're only part way there... You also need integration, which would turn the CCD camera + interface + power supply + packing into an "eye"

Re:we don't need a "bionic eye" (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182849)

we need a brain interface

I think that's the part that makes it "bionic" rather than synthetic.

Re:we don't need a "bionic eye" (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183385)

There already are a few people with implanted electrodes from previous experiments. They'd appreciate getting an upgrade and a new eye.

Re:we don't need a "bionic eye" (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183429)

And for most people, a brain for said interface.

Re:we don't need a "bionic eye" (1)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186761)

The retina does more than just act like a CCD sensor - there are special neurons dedicated to basic tasks like motion detection, edge detection, contrast detection. While there are 100 million rods/cones in each eye, there are only around 1.2 million nerve fibres. Simulating this compression/conversion process in the past required a supercomputer and today requires a GPU card. To package a CCD sensor/GPU chip and VRAM into an eyeball sized package is going to be a big challenge.

Figuring out what a single layer of cells in either the brain or the retina does, usually leads to dozens of papers being published and add a feature or two to a digital camera (automatic motion compensation, auto-focus, auto-white-balance, auto-shutter speed, auto-face recognition). Some mobile phones can do auto-text-to-speech or auto-barcode-reading-to-webpage loading.

Re:we don't need a "bionic eye" (1)

SoapBox17 (1020345) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186829)

It doesn't need to be precisely eye sized right now. Just use a high bandwidth short range communication (like blue tooth or some such) to communicate with the "eye". You could much more easily fit the optics and radios and nerve interfaces into an eye with all of the computation (and don't forget power) in something like a wallet sized object in your pocket.

Wrong Approach? (4, Interesting)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182761)

$40 million USD over 4 years is tiny! Wouldn't it be better to structure it as some sort of X-prize or some sort of incentive system predicated on success? I know it's hard to convince people to pop in a bionic eye so some stranger can tweak it but coming up with some parameters that could be objectively measured without sticking it into someone's body might be doable. X-prize type challenges can trigger research efforts in multiples of the actual prize itself.

X-prize or not, $40 million USD over 4 years is not going to go very far.

Re:Wrong Approach? (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182863)

This is why we have patent systems..

The government is really bad at valuing inventions.

People seem to forget that a lot.

Re:Wrong Approach? (4, Funny)

TypoNAM (695420) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182983)

I figured it out!
  1. Create bionic eye
  2. patent bionic eye
  3. Stab peoples' eyes out at random!
  4. PROFIT!!!

Re:Wrong Approach? (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183647)

Stab peoples' eyes out at random!

You could also have people marry their mothers?

Re:Wrong Approach? (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190995)

The gods are pissed off and now someone must pay!

Oedipus Tex [wikipedia.org] could use a pair of these... you may have heard of his brother Rex.

Mal-2

Re:Wrong Approach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28184007)

you win over 9000 Internets!

Re:Wrong Approach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28185607)

I figured it out!

  1. Create bionic eye
  2. patent bionic eye
  3. Stab peoples' eyes out at random!
  4. PROFIT!!!

Although, technically, if you choose people at random, you may very well have to stab your own eye out at some stage.

Re:Wrong Approach? (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186511)

No, just lobby for a relaxation of the eye protection mandates in workplace safety rules.

Re:Wrong Approach? (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183381)

This is why we have patent systems. The government is really bad at valuing inventions.

That's so true it isn't even funny. The patent system exists because the government continually overvalues patentable processes, and simultaneously underestimates the cost of handing out sweeping exclusive privileges like candy.

Re:Wrong Approach? (1)

MattskEE (925706) | more than 5 years ago | (#28187849)

X-prizes type systems are nice, but they are mostly a PR stunt. This isn't to belittle them, or deny effectiveness, but you need real money to do research, not the prospect of maybe winning a prize. You can't hire researchers and buy equipment with prize money that you haven't won yet. So there still needs to be *real* grant money, *real* research contracts, or *real* investors to accomplish anything.

Furthermore, the prize money only defrays the cost of eventual success, it costs more money to win an X prize than the prize is worth. This works out because by that point they usually have a product that will start making back the investment, but prize money cannot be confused with research funding.

And you are right, I doubt $40 million won't be enough to build a bionic eye. But they will probably make progress, and it's better than jumping straight in with $400 million. People in charge of public funding tend not to be risk-averse, so they start with small steps.

The real question is quality (3, Interesting)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182771)

It's already possible to do really low quality artificial sight.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+Seeing+Tongue-a078681631 [thefreelibrary.com]

As I see it, the main hurdle is just getting a eye hooked up with a decent amount of bandwidth (there are issues with power supply, nonrejection, et cetera, but those seem less difficult). The human brain is really good at creating interpreters for new inputs.

Robotic wee-wee is next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28182803)

WANT

Cops Are Theives (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28182867)

Cops Are Theives

Fuck the police.

Re:Cops Are Theives (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 5 years ago | (#28185673)

Cops Are Theives

Fuck the police.

Already a song by NWA.

Lee Majors is spinning in his grave. (1)

IV-Swamp (744272) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182893)

For shame USA. Our 70's TV future predictions are not panning out. Looks like the first Bionic Man/Woman will be saying cheesy things like "G'day".

Re:Lee Majors is alive and healthier than you. (1)

stile99 (1004110) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183927)

Fixed that for you.

Re:Lee Majors is alive and healthier than you. (1)

IV-Swamp (744272) | more than 5 years ago | (#28203043)

Thx for the correction. Who re-built him?

Wounder how much (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182935)

you would have left after taxes?

Probably not worth the effort.

Re:Wounder how much (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183577)

Oh yes, you're right, there's no way you could sell the device you just invented. It's absolutely impossible that this money is just padding for the billions such an invention would actually be worth. Researches have to fit all their budget into incentive money and never have private investors as well.

Re:Wounder how much (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184143)

You probably won't, you probably will have to license it to the government run medical system at a fixed price.

Assuming you get to keep the rights at all. You might get a lump sum and lose the right to the invention because the development was paid for by the government in part or in whole.

As predicted by JoCo (4, Funny)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182971)

I'll see her standing by the monorail
She'll look the same except for bionic eyes
She lost the real ones in the robot wars
I'll say I'm sorry, she'll say it's not your fault
Or is it?
She'll eye me suspiciously
Hearing the whir of the servos inside
And she'll scream and try to run
But there's nowhere she can hide
When a crazy cyborg wants to make you his robot bride

Well it's gonna be the future soon
And I won't always be this way
When the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away
It's gonna be the future soon
I've never seen it quite so clear
And when my heart is breaking I can close my eyes and it's already here

Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (1)

TrekkieTechie (1265532) | more than 5 years ago | (#28182977)

My understanding has always been that doing things like eye transplants are currently impossible, because the eye directly integrates with the brain -- the retina blends into the optic nerve which blends into the brain. As Neal Stephenson said in Snow Crash (paraphrased horribly), if you look into someone's eyes, you're actually looking into their brain. Our current level of understanding and experience with neurobiology precludes brain transplants, which in turn precludes eye transplants.

Until we have that kind of knowledge, I don't see how any kind of eye replacement, whether via transplant or some kind of bionic prosthesis, will be possible. Of course, IANANB (I Am Not A Neurobiologist).

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28183223)

Of course we don't know how to make it work yet, that's the point of puttng money towards its research.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (2, Informative)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183535)

The fact that someone was able to decode a cat's optic nerve [slashdot.org] shows that the signaling on the nerve is somewhat understood. So maybe we need a suitable encoder in order to feed video to an optic nerve. There might be other problems, such as whether an optic nerve remains functional after the eye fails.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28187665)

It turns out that you don't even need to do all of the work. The current versions can give a low resolution image, but don't even try to encode the signal in the same way a real eye would. The recipient's brain adapts to process the new input and build a mental image from it, just as it did when the original eyes started receiving input shortly after birth. Remember that the original eye wasn't designed; it evolved by mutating from something simpler to something that gave more precise input, and the brain had to adapt independently to process the information usefully for the mutation to be sufficiently beneficial to be selected for.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28196347)

Just because you can tell whether a door is open by the smell doesn't mean it isn't useful to be able to see how wide the doorway is. If we can feed the brain a signal similar to what the eye produces, the brain probably has structures which can deal with the video signal better than if we send a random signal or connect the video signal to the olfactory receptors.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (1)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183595)

The current bionic implants targets very very circumstances, i.e. the nerves and retina must still be attached etc. The implant stimulates the retina and creates images that the user can see. (They can replicate this using animal experiment by stimulating the retina and observing the brain activity in certain regions. Some groups in the US have already done some human trial with limited success) The current resolution is very low and the whole setup is impractical. My opinion is that stem cell research is the way to go.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (1)

jellie (949898) | more than 5 years ago | (#28183667)

I think the "bionic eye" they refer to is more about the interface between an artificial eye and the human visual system, rather than an eye transplant. Like you said, the retina is composed of neural cells, so removing the eye or optic nerve leads to blindness that is most likely irreversible (like in retinal detachment). As far as I'm aware, "eye" transplants are transplants of the cornea.

Current artificial eyes pass signals to the retina or to the visual cortex, but they have very low resolutions. I've heard about the Dobelle eye from a few years ago that had up to 12x12 resolution; I expect that to be better now. It seems very low to me because I'm sighted, but it probably means a lot to someone who can't see. I know scientists have had success with the motor cortex, but vision just seems a more challenging task.

More research funding is a good thing though.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28184503)

For the most part you are right, but how does the retina communicate with the rest of the brain? The optic nerve. So if we can make the optic nerve think whatever dongle we bolt on to it is a retina, the brain wouldn't know the difference.

This wouldn't help for macular degeneration, but I would imagine we could get around glaucoma by just replacing the bad parts of the eye that are killing the visual system with a bionic. Also, just for me, being able to replace just the retina would have given 7 eyes in my family back sight and allow me to not shit my pants when I see a weird floater or shadow in the corner of my eye.

Maybe I'm just optimistic because two retinal detachments in one eye and two cataracts by the age of 19 along with a strong family history of blindness and extreme nearsightedness gives me a very good reason to hope they can do something. Eyes don't often get better with age.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (2, Funny)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184061)

Our current level of understanding and experience with neurobiology precludes brain transplants, which in turn precludes eye transplants.

This is backwards. You're saying that because we don't have the tools to replace the engine, we can't replace the spark plugs.

Car analogy to the rescue.

Re:Won't this fail for simple biological reasons? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28185731)

Until we have that kind of knowledge, I don't see how any kind of eye replacement, whether via transplant or some kind of bionic prosthesis, will be possible. Of course, IANANB (I Am Not A Neurobiologist).

Umm... So are you saying because we don't have the knowledge we are going to fail because we don't have the knowledge?

I think the whole point of the research was to learn how to do it so they wouldn't fail at it.

The point of research us to learn about something we know nothing about.

World Domination (1)

happy_place (632005) | more than 5 years ago | (#28184663)

I dunno... sure we can rebuild him, but then that leads to the Bionic Woman, and we all know that inevitably means we'll have Fembots trying to take over the world... with their faces flipping off, and those freaky eyeballs on circuit board faces... Shudder!

Crikey! (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 5 years ago | (#28185125)

Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic Australian. Steve Irwin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster... crikier!

CCD and neural network on a chip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28185601)

Assuming the nerve-electronic interface can be bridged, I would think a 12 Megapixel CCD meshed with modern autofocus (would prove an issue if another natural eye is involved) then fed through a configurable Neural network (similar to what the natural eye uses fyi) to feed the inpulses to the optic nerve. The trick is the small pacakeing required and low light issues, but the NN could learn with the new user (training via an externally hosted routine) then be 'frozen' in forward pass mode once the user is happy with the imaging?

Enough Six Million Dollar Man! (1)

realnrh (1298639) | more than 5 years ago | (#28185635)

We need Bionic Six and Robocop references to balance things out. And we've gone this long without a Borg reference, or someone demanding not only vision from bionic eyes but lasers? This isn't the Slashdot I know...

I'd Upgrade... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#28186471)

If I could get an HD eye with 20/10 vision and the ability to switch to infrared-mode. I'm getting to the point where I have trouble reading small print up close and it's all down hill for my eyeballs. I also have annoying floaters in my left eye. I'd be up for hanging on to my right eye (20/15 and still clear) so we could just pop the left one out and install an HD eyeball in there. That way I'd still get DRM-free organic vision with one eye, would not have floaters (I'll pass on the floater EULA) and would be able to see my co-workers in their underwear with my left one. Additionally the screen saver software should be good for a laugh.

If they could make it take up half my face and the eye part glow red like the Terminator, that would definitely be an added bonus.

Too bad the outlook on such a thing is that if it's invented it will only be long after I've died of old age. Stupid meat shelf life...

Re:I'd Upgrade... (1)

Bugs42 (788576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190223)

That way I'd still get DRM-free organic vision with one eye, would not have floaters (I'll pass on the floater EULA) and would be able to see my co-workers in their underwear with my left one.

Sir, I'm gonna need to ask for your geek card. No /.er should be working in any kind of business where that's a good thing.

the great firewall pt. 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28186673)

...but the money will only be given if the eye can be used to watch where Aussies surf on the web.

The Six Million Dollar Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28186899)

Apparently we didn't have the technology.

Bionic eye sounds OK, but... (1)

fullymodo (985789) | more than 5 years ago | (#28187079)

...will I be able to fit 2 GPUs on it?

Inflation's a killer.... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28187513)

According to the TV show it was suppose to be $6 Million for the entire man! No wonder it's taking so long.

40 Million? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28188795)

Isn't that 34 Million Dollars over budget, or is that in Aussie Dollars?

Part of the "2020 summit" (1)

Goonie (8651) | more than 5 years ago | (#28189181)

This proposal has a bit of a backstory to it.

Last year, the newly-elected Australian government held something called the "2020 summit". The idea was to bring together 1000 of Australia's "best and brightest" - think academics, businesspeople, a smattering of celebrities including Hugh Jackman and Cate Blanchett (for the arts subtrack) to discuss ideas for Australia;s future. After two days of discussion, they came up with a list of suggestions.

Unfortunately, the government didn't like most of them. Some of them were genuinely bad, but a lot the government didn't like because they would have required bullet-biting.. But to show that the whole exercise is worthwhile, the government has seized on the easy, cheap, uncontroversial tidbits and is promoting them heavily. Like this bionic eye.

While it won't be of much interest to Slashdot, another one likely to get publicized over the next little while is the proposal to build a research center to record the environmental expertise of the various Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Not that it's a bad idea, but it's the kind of thing that a government can do with pocket change.

Took long enough... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28189523)

It's about goddamn time.

We have the biotech and computer tech to go almost full cyborg but the medical industry is still pissing around with procedures invented in the Middle Ages.

Remember how everybody blasted Christopher Reeve for doing the standing-up commercial? If we had seriously pursued medical bionics in the 90's he might have actually walked before he died. The fact that we still don't have the medical methods in place to do that really pisses me off...

Tissue regeneration and bionics is where medicine should be headed, and fast.

Wrong again K Rudd (1)

dark grep (766587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191673)

Don't they know? In the 70's it only cost $6M to build a whole bionic man. It has already been done!!!
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?