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The Blind Shall See Again, But When?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the better-repaint-their-room dept.

Biotech 226

An anonymous reader writes "Restoring hearing with cochlea implants that replace the inner ear with an electronic version has become standard procedure for many types of deafness. Now it looks like the same thing might happen for many types of blindness. With five national labs funded by the Department of Energy, this third-generation artificial retina promises to enable the blind to see again soon. Already it has been successful in over a dozen test patients, but at resolutions too low for doing much more than proving the concept. However, if the DoE can perfect this larger version of an artificial retina, then the company Second Sight promises to commercialize the implant, aiming for VGA resolution within the decade."

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When (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203628)

when the frosty piss dribbles into their corneas

nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (5, Interesting)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203684)

If they achieve VGA resolution, it's a steady road to full vision for the blind. I'm more interested in, at this point, exceeding human abilities. Think of the case of HDR imaging [wikipedia.org] -- we currently don't have monitors (most of us at least) that are high dynamic range themselves, so images have to be "tone-mapped" to the dynamic range of our monitors, which often results in those ridiculously sharp but somewhat "unrealistic" [flickr.com] pictures you see on Flickr.

It would be cool if, say, the IR spectrum or just more dynamic range in the visible spectrum could be tone-mapped to human perception in this way, resulting in perceptually sharper images by way of a direct retinal implant.

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203740)

Why stop at the ir spectrum, why not go full spectrum? Maybe with a remote control. Make Geordi's visor seem like a toy. How much information can we cram into the visual cortex?

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (4, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204126)

Make sure you include some kind of tuner, because I don't want to have to see Radio Disney nor the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. But full-body scans at the airport might be a fun channel - those x-ray glasses I ordered when I was 12 didn't work.

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204206)

those x-ray glasses I ordered when I was 12 didn't work

You must have had a defective pair.

The ones I had when I was living in southern France worked perfectly.

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (3, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204248)

Actually, quite a lot, as long as we are willing to give up accurate color perception in the spectrum we see in now. The human visual system can differentiate, say, ten million colors (guesstimate). That's across a very small band of the spectrum we could make visible if we chose to. Index the new frequencies to perceived colors and we might be able to differentiate a few hundreds of thousands of colors in our currently-visual spectrum, but we'll also be able to differentiate various frequencies of ultraviolet and infrared light. So, for example anything in shades of blue represents UV light, and anything in shades of red represents IR, and the colors we see today are perceived as little more than shades of grey with a blue or red tint.

I, for one, would gladly give up the ability to differentiate eggshell from ecru if it meant I could see in the UV and IR spectra, though I strongly suspect the transition would be best done slowly. That much new unfamiliar input introduced all at once might have profoundly unfortunate effects on the human psyche...

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (2, Insightful)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204478)

I believe the opposite; that the human brain would actually create a new color for the UV/IR bands... the person with the ability to see this color would describe it as being indescribable, the same way it is impossible for a human to accurately describe the colors we have now.

You think it won't happen ... (2, Interesting)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203976)

... in military application? Robo-cops, emergency responders, and others of similar categories of future application will most definitely benefit from advanced imaging.
HUD capabilities as well -- non-disruptive arrows near the peripheral regions of your vision guiding you to the nearest McDonalds when you ask for it. It won't stop there, "Aps" for your new vision capabilities will spring up -- virtual retinal compass, retinal level (yes, you only need two hands to make sure that picture frame is straight), and the list goes on. Oh, and don't forget the ever loving popular - pop-ups.

Re:You think it won't happen ... (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204136)

> ... in military application? Robo-cops, emergency responders, and others of similar categories of future application will most definitely benefit from advanced imaging.
HUD capabilities as well -- non-disruptive arrows near the peripheral regions of your vision guiding you to the nearest McDonalds when you ask for it. It won't stop there, "Aps" for your new vision capabilities will spring up -- virtual retinal compass, retinal level (yes, you only need two hands to make sure that picture frame is straight), and the list goes on. Oh, and don't forget the ever loving popular - pop-ups.

Oh great. Then /b/ will be able to hack into my visual cortex and superimpose goatse on everything I am seeing.

Re:You think it won't happen ... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204284)

What i'm surprised at is this doesn't appear to have come from military research.
You'd think something like this would have been high in the priority list of enhancements.
I guess IR / NV / UV headsets were just more efficient use of money and time.

There is that other one that sounded quite promising and wouldn't require surgery, the device that just gets placed on to the tongue.
I believe this one was actually being looked in to by the military.

Re:You think it won't happen ... (1)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204584)

Why did this post get modded troll?

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (3, Funny)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204078)

the company Second Sight promises to commercialize the implant, aiming for VGA resolution within the decade.

And, if they achieve VGA resolution, you can just get the next upgrade [xkcd.com] in software [gamedev.net] !

 

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (4, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204108)

If they achieve better than VGA resolution, it's a steady road to needing HDMI cables, and I'm not convinced they will fit. ;)

You think the HDMI cables are bad? (1)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204630)

Wait till you find out where you have to put the batteries.

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (2, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204306)

320x200 8 bits. Life would be a game of Doom.

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204346)

If they achieve VGA resolution, it's a steady road to full vision for the blind. I'm more interested in, at this point, exceeding human abilities.

It's not as if to achieve one goal, we need to abandon the other goal. In fact, being able to give VGA resolution to the blind seems in many ways like it's on the path to achieving beyond human sight. Get an artificial retina that gets VGA resolution perfected. It will take a lot of money to get this right. Restoring sight is a payoff that will help fund refinements on that, like higher resolution artificial retinas, increased spectrum retinas etc.

Furthermore, I suspect the main reason you're more interested in exceeding human abilities is because you personally have no use for restoring vision to the blind, which seems a little selfish.

Re:nevermind the blind -- bring on the androids (1)

caseih (160668) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204660)

This comment struck me as kind of funny as one of the main, original, purposes of HDR imaging was to try to capture an image more like how the eye actually sees it. The eye can handle much broader ranges of light levels than most cameras, which means you can look out through a window and see the bright sky and still see the interior of the room pretty well.

Our modern light sensors already have a pretty broad exposure range now, though, beyond the capabilities of our file formats and displays, so it seems to me you just plug them in to the optic nerves and voila. HDR (in other words, normal) vision. Tone-mapping is really done on computers because our monitors have such lowsy dynamic range. Of course the funky color maps can be used to artistic effect.

But you're also thinking along the lines of Star trek's "VISOR" that La Forge was wearing. For some reason that no writer has adequately explained, the VISOR took this huge spectrum (well beyond visible light) and either compressed it all into the visual light range, or just dumped the whole range onto the optic nerve somehow, leaving it to the brain to sort out. Neither explanation has sounded right. Seemed a bit silly to me, but I guess it works as a plot device ("special" powers, etc). I kind of doubt the optic nerve and the visual cortex has the range and resolution to resolve a wider spectrum. But who knows.

For the visually-impaired computer user... (5, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203686)

Try working on a VGA/DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort/whatever input, too. Bypass monitors altogether.

Re:For the visually-impaired computer user... (2, Interesting)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203886)

At some point, we should be able to modify perception via EM, so no need for implants. Disrupt the optic nerve and feed it artificial stimulation via a headband or similar, and provide a full immersive view. Ditto the other nerves, and you have immersive, convincing VR complete with non-tactile sensation....

Re:For the visually-impaired computer user... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204458)

Imagine what would happen with a bit of interference... No thank you!

Re:For the visually-impaired computer user... (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204676)

The shadow government is already doing this. They are feeding audio signals to my brain by using secret antennas they implanted in my teeth [slashdot.org] . Clearly they are ready to move on to the next step of their evil scheme because they are making me type this to you too!

Whoa (4, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203950)

Keanu Reeves approves of this idea.

Re:Whoa (2, Informative)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203998)

[Johnny and Jane have just broken into the computer warehouse]
Johnny Mnemonic: [swipes a pile of circuit boards and components off the desk and says to no one in particular] I need a Sino-logic 16.
Jane: [runs around the computer warehouse finding everything he calls for]
Johnny Mnemonic: Sogo 7 Data Gloves, a GPL stealth module, one Burdine intelligent translator... Thompson iPhone.

Re:Whoa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204360)

Keanu who?

Major Kusanagi approves this idea.

Re:For the visually-impaired computer user... (1)

ipquickly (1562169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204598)

Try working on a VGA/DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort/whatever input, too. Bypass monitors altogether.

Previous story:2010 -- the Year AACS and HDMI Kill Off HD Component Video

Future story:2022 - the Year 'BioDMI' Kills Off Analog Theatres and Viewscreens

Great! (1, Funny)

Ziest (143204) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203692)

Who says the age of miracles is over?

Re:Great! (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203896)

It has only just begun... a still more glorious dawn awaits! :D

yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203700)

Where is the cyborg tag?

Re:yes... (1)

ipquickly (1562169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204310)

Where is the cyborg tag?

I'm still looking for posts about how much this will benefit those who can't see.
But (this being Slashdot) everyone is posting about how much more they want to see.

(hangs head in hypocritical shame)

DoE? (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203706)

What does the Department of Energy has to do with the development of an artificial retina?

Re:DoE? (2, Interesting)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203776)

It'll be interesting when they start offering bonuses to any military staff who opt in to a "Predator Vision" program.

Re:DoE? (2, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203822)

Agreed, this seems more like a Dept. of Defense issue.

Re:DoE? (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203872)

Oh, maybe it is some kind of budget issue, and they have to put the expense on the budget of the DoE?

Re:DoE? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203876)

DoE national labs do quite a bit of basic material research science. Since the first and second gen were basically implanted solar cells (silicon substrate that reacted to light) it makes sense.

Re:DoE? (1, Insightful)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203928)

Yeah, but shouldn't they pass on their research work to another, more appropriate Department? Just asking...

Re:DoE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204354)

They have the money. Do not ask questions.

Re:DoE? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204142)

That immediately jumped out at me too.

Shouldn't the Department of Energy be funding startups and projects to solve the looming energy crisis?

Re:DoE? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204378)

What does the Department of Energy has to do with the development of an artificial retina?

Ideally they saw good science that needed funding and funded it even though it didn't fall neatly into their mission statement. I'd rather have them spending money on something that appears to be paying off than funding more repetitive studies which will tell us again that clean coal really isn't good for anything.

Blindness Sucks (4, Interesting)

techsoldaten (309296) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203732)

My Dad just had a stroke and has no perception on the left side of his body.

All I have been thinking about the last month is how to do something like this, set up something that can do motion detection and help him avoid collisions.

You know, I would go for low resolution versus no resolution right now.

M

Re:Blindness Sucks (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203834)

My sympathies for your father's condition (I have had family members who have had strokes, and it's really quite sad and humbling to witness the consequences), but let's be realistic. I'm no doctor, but I'd imagine blindness after a stroke is neurological. Making modifications to the retina isn't going to fix issues in the brain.

So with that in mind... Blindness doesn't have a single cause, and even if we take some steps in the right direction, it won't be a silver bullet.

Re:Blindness Sucks (2, Informative)

hamburgler007 (1420537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203890)

Unfortunately, stroke induced brain damage is likely the result of brain damage than damage to the retina.

Re:Blindness Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204186)

Unfortunately, stroke induced brain damage is likely the result of brain damage than damage to the retina.

speaking from experience?

Re:Blindness Sucks (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204542)

Unfortunately, stroke induced brain damage is likely the result of brain damage than damage to the retina.

Maybe it will turn out to be a good way of bypassing the damage. I'm not a neuroscientist or a medical professional, that statement is based entirely on the fact that weirder things have turned out to work for other medical problems. For example, I think few people would have had the foresight in the 1900's to guess that a substance isolated from fungi [wikipedia.org] would be a revolutionary medicine.

New brain router needed (2, Interesting)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204002)

My Dad just had a stroke and has no perception on the left side of his body.

Hmmm, but this isn't really blindness resulting from eye damage is it? It sounds to me like his problem is that the signals coming out of his left eye are being mapped into damaged brain tissue. It sounds like he just needs a new 'optical data input port' installed in his brain.

It sounds so trivial, doesn't it? Just rerouting a few electrical impulses around a damaged network node...

Re:New brain router needed (1)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204700)

Given enough time if the damage is not too horrid, the brain may do this on its own.

My mom had a stroke and lost pretty much everything on her left side. To my amazement she pretty much completely recovered and lived another 20 years.

Re:Blindness Sucks (1)

ZuchinniOne (1617763) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204482)

Unfortunately a retinal implant won't help in this situation. However depending on where the stroke was there are other options such as thalamic and cortical implants.

Unfortunately they carry more risks and generally don't provide much resolution.

If the stroke included areas in V1 (primary visual cortex) then there really isn't anything that can be done.

My condolences.

How often do you do this? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203744)

How often does everybody else stop and say to themselves, "Holy crap. We're living in the future!" I've been doing that at least once a week since the beginning of the year.

Re:How often do you do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204702)

Isn't that supposed to be a sign that the Singularity is near?

This is BAD BAD BAD (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203754)

Cochlear implants have basically destroyed deaf culture. Retinal implants will do the same thing for blind culture. It's cultural genocide, and we should NOT tolerate this desctruction of memetic diversity.

And don't give me the line about, "but it's *easier* to go through life when you're not blind." Yeah, and it's easier to go through life when you're not black too. So who's up for the skin lightening/radical plastic surgery for all black people? Yeah, didn't think so.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203832)

Ugh, i hate this deaf/blind "culture" crap. Stop trying to build a culture around a defect and pretend it makes you superior to other people. All this catering to people with defects drives me insane.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (4, Interesting)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204250)

That was my gut reaction too but I learned something reading the wikipedia page on cochlear implants [wikipedia.org] :

If a child is placed into a mainstream setting it makes it difficult for them because they feel like they do not fit in with their peers and cannot fully identify with the Deaf community. One interviewee in the Christiansen and Leigh study states "In high school it was the worst time for me with the cochlear implant because I was really trying to find my identity with the cochlear implant...I never accepted my deafness. And the cochlear implant in some ways showed me that no matter what, the moment I take it off I'm deaf. I'll never be hearing 24 hours." [37]

I'm not deaf but I think that there is enough a community for deaf people that they have a cultural identity of being deaf. By implanting children with the device, they are no longer in that culture, but neither are they a "normal" fully hearing person, even when they have the device plugged in. This may actually lead to a lower self-esteem for the child than if they were surrounded by people like them (i.e. deaf). But then again, teenagers or children who don't fit in or feel inadequate for any reason are as common as grass since schools and children tend to try and enforce sociological homogeneity, it doesn't matter if you wear thick glasses, are socially maladjusted, or have any other issue that makes you different from the "average" kid.

As for black people, I think the GP needs to learn a bit about skin tone [google.com] discrimination amongst african americans and asians before he starts shooting off about skin lighteners and their evilness. Even americans of european descent do it, ever hear the term "redneck"? It immediately conjures a picture in one's mind of someone who is often poorly educated and poor financially and is often overweight.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (1)

Shatteredstar (1722136) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204610)

Thats actually an interesting psychological aspect. Most everyone needs to find a social group to identify with and most of the child development that I'm aware of (at least socially) requires finding that group no?

By the same token aren't we somewhat moving away from the requirement of direct social interaction as the internet social monster continues to grow. While it may not replace it can perhaps provide some 'assistance' in finding an identity and place socially...even if not too grand of a social culture (at least in terms of how many view such culture.)

I wonder though if retinal implants could really be made to be removable on even a semi consistent basis. The cochlear implant obviously can but retinal seems a bit more touchy of an area ya know?

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204620)

A neighbor kid with a cochlear implant is the same age as my daughter. I was walking her home to swap out her battery the other day & she was saying how it's easy on her school bus if her battery dies because everyone can sign. She's definitely a part of deaf culture, but the implant allows her to be part of hearing culture too. It would be much harder for her to hang out with the neighborhood kids without it. Her parents did have some qualms initially, but I think they all see it as a good thing now.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (1)

Shatteredstar (1722136) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204558)

Actually this has alot more grand possibilities then simply helping the disabled too. Imagine when it can have IR and UV range visiblity to it. Imagine when you can put some form of built in magnification. Imagine if you could dynamically filter out specific light wavelengths?

The implications of this sort of technology can very quickly become staggering in terms of taking humans beyond the 'visible' spectrum requirement and into so much wilder landscapes.

Yes it starts with helping the disabled because they have nothing and many have experiences and ability or even potential that could grow and help others with the ability to see once more. They also have 'nothing to lose' if the procedure does not work. If the implant does not function did the patient lose anything more then still being blind? It becomes a test base and a possibility of helping people. A win win for the company and society.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (4, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203838)

Flip that argument - who's up for preventing blacks from purchasing skin lightening or radical plastic surgery?

See, kids, that's called a false dichotomy.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204000)

No, a false dichotomy is when they remove your previously-implanted... oh nevermind.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (-1, Troll)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203862)

Wow, did you just compare being black to being blind?

Who are you, Al Franken?

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203938)

No, he just pointed out a basic logical fallacy that proves the parent to be a bit rambly.

Huh? (2, Insightful)

Chameleon Man (1304729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203944)

...Wait, you're serious? Why would you prevent people from having the choice to hear or see just to keep your "culture" intact?

I guess we should be upset with cars because they destroyed the horse-and-buggy culture.

Re:Huh? (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204158)

For those wondering, the OP stated that this technology will destroy blind culture as he claims the cochlear implant destroyed deaf culture and that this should be considered cultural genocide. Quick question though, is it possible for people to delete their own posts (despite being forced to preview what they wrote) or does that just happen when you get modded down to oblivion?

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (2, Insightful)

SOdhner (1619761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203960)

I don't see it as cultural genocide because it's not really forced - nor is there any reason to artificially maintain a culture that is falling apart on its own. If less people are blind, there may be less blind culture, but it's not being attacked, really.


It's certainly unfortunate for the people who can't be helped by advances such as this and then have less of a culture to work within, but that's no reason to stand in the way of new technologies. Eventually - hopefully - something like this will be available to everyone who is blind or deaf no matter the original cause. Even then there will be some that refuse the treatment, but that's their choice.


Cultures change, and sometimes they go away. It happens.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204006)

Ya'll posting in a troll thread.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (2, Informative)

SOdhner (1619761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204064)

I don't think so - I've met people with this opinion in person, one of whom felt so strongly about it that she flat out said if she had a child who was born deaf and knew it could be immediately fixed she would decline, even though this would be someone that was never even part of the deaf culture to begin with.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204384)

If they think we need deaf people so much why not deafen their normal children?

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204048)

Cochlear implants have basically destroyed deaf culture. Retinal implants will do the same thing for blind culture. It's cultural genocide, and we should NOT tolerate this desctruction of memetic diversity.

And don't give me the line about, "but it's *easier* to go through life when you're not blind." Yeah, and it's easier to go through life when you're not black too. So who's up for the skin lightening/radical plastic surgery for all black people? Yeah, didn't think so.

As a half-black, half white person, let me comment on your absurd ideas. For starters, skin color does not impact the ability of my 5 senses. I can see all the same things that white or black people can, I can hear the same sounds. I can smell the same sounds, I can taste the same foods (save the fried chicken jokes. EVERYONE LOVES FRIED CHICKEN), and things feel the same way to me as they do when compared to my multi-colored brethren. So my skin color doesn't inhibit my senses.

How about my life? What if my skin color gave me, say, a 30% increased chance of dying from some horrible skin cancer? Would I do it?

Hell yes.

My skin color is insignificant. I don't care about some racially motivated "culture". I do care about how long I live.

If you want to live handicapped, feel free to poke your eyes and ears out. For the rest of us... If our bodies are broken, we'll let science fix us. Men are men (and not simple beasts) because we can use tools to shape ourselves and our environment. Stop the Luddite ideology!

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204200)

As a half-black, half white person, let me comment on your absurd ideas...I can smell the same sounds...that white or black people can

You may be more mixed up than you realize.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (1)

SOdhner (1619761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204312)

save the fried chicken jokes. EVERYONE LOVES FRIED CHICKEN

Some people are born with impairments to their sense of taste which - incorrectly - makes them believe that fried chicken is not absolutely delicious. Fortunately there is now a tongue implant that can correct this terrible condition.

The problem is that this may result in cultural genocide to tasteless people. It is not thought to impact those with bad taste in partners, movies, etc. although god willing we may one day find a treatment for that as well.

Re:This is BAD BAD BAD (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204374)

Have contact lenses destroyed the basically fucking blind culture?

Only a moron would want to be crippled, I say that as a person who has been effectively blind without corrective lenses since age 6. I can focus on objects within about 6 inches of my face without corrective lenses.

Holy hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203762)

They skipped right over the visor. Science is beating Start Trek! What would be cool is if they can have it detect UV and/or infrared, as long as it's not too hard for the human brain to comprehend. Now all they need is the telescoping cornea like Geordi had in First Contact

Re:Holy hell (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204278)

How come no one ever gives any love to seeing polarized light?

Too late (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204288)

Science already invented the air filter.

Upgrade? (1)

Abdul the Newt (1748454) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203768)

After the implant, what will be the upgrade path to HD? And what about 3D? Will it require special glasses?

Optical nerve still needed. (5, Interesting)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203798)

This reminds me of a small girl we met at the swimmingpool (lessons), who had one visible cochlear implant. This girl turned out to be deaf from birth on both ears. I remarked to her mother that she could actually hear and talk amazingly well - I hadn't noticed anything in her speech. According to the doctors this was nigh impossible, but she had enough input from the 16 nerves to get perfect speech and reasonable hearing. She probably got very lucky with the connections on the nerves. So even with 16 nerves stimulated this could make a huge difference for someone who's blind, if they happen to hit the right connections.

Yeah I know - anecdotal evidence and such. Still, I'm happy they get this far already.

Oh, and I won't be upgrading my retina unless it matches the resolution of my computer display and comes with infrared, zoom and millimeterwave vision options. Preferably with scrolling 6502 assembly code on the left side as well :P

Re:Optical nerve still needed. (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203930)

I will be upgrading when my current one is running at 50% of its present capacity.

Re:Optical nerve still needed. (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 4 years ago | (#31203934)

the body is very good at adapting itself to get around problems. have you ever seen the 2 legged dog? sad/funny at the same time, but nature manages.

Re:Optical nerve still needed. (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204150)

Is it wrong that, after googling "2 legged dog" and seeing the videos of Faith, I am laughing hysterically? And can't stop?

Re:Optical nerve still needed. (1)

telomerewhythere (1493937) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204334)

Just two days ago I saw a dog with one functioning leg. It was incredibly sad and a little funny at the same time. It didn't seem that he was in pain, but to get around he jumped forward or sideways with its one functioning front leg. the other front leg was held sideways as if in a sling. I so wanted to take a picture or video, but the owner of the dog was facing me the whole time I could have gotten my phone out. The only problem was that he made up for his disability in mobility with barks.

The owner is looking for a wheelchair for him. I have seen paraplegic wheelchaired (word?) dogs before playing fetch. Seem pretty happy.

Re:Optical nerve still needed. (2, Funny)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204262)

and millimeter wave vision options

Pervert.

Re:Optical nerve still needed. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204400)

You are misapprehending how the cochlear implant functions. It is stimulating nerves using 16 electrodes, not stimulating 16 individual nerves (each electrode will stimulate a region...).

Visual vs. Motor Prostheses (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203800)

It's interesting that these visual implants directly stimulate the retina to send signals to the nervous system, while even the advanced cybernetic limbs such as DARPA's "Proto 2" are still using the kludge of reading electrical signals from muscles. As I understand it, the arm research is meant to eventually hook the limbs up directly to nerves (as has been done successfully, to some extent, with biological hand transplants), but the tech isn't quite there yet.

Re:Visual vs. Motor Prostheses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204116)

Could it be related to the encoding/decoding mechanism? For the eye, you ordinary have a set of cells which send electric signals to the optic nerve, and you are simulating those signals. For the ear, you simulate the vibrations as they would have been detected by the ear. But in both these cases, you rely on a preexisting mechanism to encode a stimuli into neuroelectric transmissions. I don't think we have the ability to directly link into the nerve system and e.g. by linking into the spinal cord giving you the feeling of walking in deep mud. Do I understand that correctly? I would guess that the "data density" is simply too high, and that for eyes and ears you rely on the system already being designed to be interpretive.

Re:Visual vs. Motor Prostheses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31204476)

implants directly stimulate the retina to send signals to the nervous system

I want my Na'vi tail, stat!

astroturfing slashvertisement (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31203840)

this is an ad for the movie repomen. It's set in the future world where people can buy an artificial heart, kidney, eyes, liver, etc. And if you don't make your monthly payments, Jude Law will forcefully remove your body part.

Re:astroturfing slashvertisement (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204444)

Which is a total ripoff of REPO: The genetic opera.

Which is not a bad rock opera, note it is not a good film, just not a bad rock opera.

Better than that (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204012)

Cadmium sulfides - a fairly common photoreceptor - are sensitive to infrared. We might be able to do better than mother nature someday. Imagine being able to see in infrared.

Re:Better than that (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204234)

If Predator movies are any indication, I'm not sure I'd make the switch.

Re:Better than that (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204538)

A real, modern IR camera while it can provide false colour viewing like the predator (red/white = hot, blue = cold etc), most are pretty good resolution greyscale images.

Just look at some of the footage taken with an IR camera mounted to a police chopper, or a search and rescue chopper - they can even tell the difference in temperature of grass that gets run over by a vehicle, so you can clearly see the tracks. Or the ability to pick out a near-freezing person who is barely above the temperature of the water they are in.

Obviously, these cameras are bigger than something you can fit in your eye, but they do work from 500 feet up!

Commercialisation (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204166)

However, if the DoE can perfect this larger version of an artificial retina, then the company Second Sight promises to commercialize the implant

So if the government invents it, this company promises to make money from it? That's real philanthropy for you!

What I want is chicken eyes. (1)

telomerewhythere (1493937) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204214)

I read the link, (I know, I must be new here) fascinating stuff. It is for people still with undamaged nerve ganglia. But I wonder about gene therapy. I imagine that could possibly be better. There has been some success in injections, like described here on /. [slashdot.org]

I read something recently about a chicken's eye and how it differs from a human's. Here's the link [sciencedaily.com] Short version: sharp color vision across the field of view and extra cones to see violet/uv, and double cones to see movement.

Could a person who has AMD get an injection of cone/rod dna/proteins in their eye and get regeneration?

Headlines from the future (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204238)

VGA resolution, cochlea implants? I can already see the headlines for ten years from now:

"Larry Laffer Virus Strikes Again!"

The Larry Laffer virus has taken its tenth victim in two days. Mental hospitals are seeing a surge of new patients admitted for hallucinations. The affected individuals report hearing strange low grade synthesized music and talk incoherently about lizards.

The common connection between the cases appears to be a combination of cheap new electronic sight and hearing enhancements introduced by Microsoft. It appears that the internet enabled operating system which runs the devices contains a notorious email program which acts as the propagation vector.

Investigations are ongoing to find the Chinese script kiddie writer of the virus, although some highly unreliable people in the industry suspect it may actually be a shadowy older Anglo-Saxon individual due to the particular choice of payload.

The Larry Laffer virus is not the first time physically challenged persons with combined sight and hearing enhancements have been targeted by virus writers. Last year, a number of schizophrenia cases were reported about individuals who claimed to see and hear the face of "Bob" hovering nearby. An court battle between the Church of the Subgenius and Microsoft is currently in progress.

what happens when they exceed human abilities? (1)

guanxi (216397) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204282)

What happens when they get higher resolution, are sensitive to a wider spectrum, tunable images (contrast, enhancement, etc), connected to storage for recording and playback, cameras pointing in various directions or even remote ... who will get them? You don't think you'll get a job with that old wetware, do you?

URL Shorteners (5, Insightful)

emkyooess (1551693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204296)

Can we not use bit.ly and other URL shorteners on /.? There's no need to. They're harmful, actually. Thanks!

let's hope (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204336)

The Blind Shall See Again, But When?

Hopefully after you know who isn't on tv anymore!

Moore's law (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204348)

Or rather a rough equilevent of Moore's Law for CCD chip resolution, predicts that the resolution problem will vanish by next decade. Welcome Geordi, your visor will be ready before you are born.

Rush Limbaugh (-1, Offtopic)

minderaser (28934) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204352)

Is it just me, or has the public at large failed to notice that the big fat blowhard name Rush Limbaugh lost his hearing as a result of him doing massive amounts of opiates? Seriously, a result of doing HARD drugs is that you lose your ability to HEAR. That gigantic fat fuck who is more or less now deaf is telling us what to do?? REALLYl? Hey, fatso, you are addicted to OPIATES.

Cochlea implants aren't standard (1)

djscoumoune (1731422) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204376)

and aren't recommended at all because the operation destroys the working part of the ear and you still have to learn reading on people's lips and learn a special sign language to help understanding the pronounciation, plus the regular sign language. I just hope the VGA implants will be upgradable (unlike cochlea implants) because seeing in 320*240 may not be much and may need real life adjustments.

But cochlear implants are oversold... (2, Interesting)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204410)

The premise of this submission is that cochlear implants are uncontroversially good, but that just ain't so; there's a lot of people who have objections to cochlear implants themselves or the way they're pushed on to deaf children.

The National Association of the Deaf's statement on the implants [nad.org] makes pretty good reading about this topic. They don't come against the implants as their own, but they do point out a number of problems that they perceive on their use:

  1. The implants are pushed on to parents of deaf children as a "cure" for deafness, when they are at best a tool for deaf people to navigate a hearing world.
  2. The promotion of the implants often comes along with a negative image of deafness, which portrays deaf people as deficient and unable to communicate. The NAD would rather prefer that deaf people be represented by positive role models of successful deaf people.
  3. The implants require years of very frustrating training for many deaf children to learn to use, and a lot of that time might be better spent on sign-language based education.

I don't know to what extent this would be a factor for blindness, however. It might well be completely different, because blind people can speak and understand spoken language, so they don't have the same developmental risks that pre-lingual deaf children are subject to if they don't have the chance to learn a full language.

Re:But cochlear implants are oversold... (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204574)

1. This is the best cure we have so far
2. They are deficient, they lack the ability to hear. Hate to hurt their feelings, but that is the truth. I am deficient in sight, so I use contacts.
3. Not if they want to communicate with 99.9% of the world that uses sound to communicate instead of gestures.

In the land of the blind... (4, Funny)

f8l_0e (775982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204516)

the man with 640x480 is king.

WW-2 experiments gave soldiers infrared vision (2, Interesting)

ZuchinniOne (1617763) | more than 4 years ago | (#31204692)

During world war 2 some soldiers were given a form of vitamin A that slightly changed the structure of the opsin molecule which the eye uses to detect light.

This resulted in soldiers being able to see further into the red end of the spectrum and there are some reports that a few soldiers even saw the top of the infrared spectrum.

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