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Implant Translates Written Words To Braille, Right On the Retina

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the downright-amazing dept.

Biotech 75

An anonymous reader writes "For the first time, blind people could read street signs with a device that translates letters into Braille and beams the results directly onto a person's eye." According to the article, "In a trial conducted on a single patient who already used the [predecessor] device, the person was able to correctly read Braille letters up to 89 percent of the time, and most of the inaccuracy appeared when the participant misread a single letter. The user was able to read one word a second."

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75 comments

O Rly? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079497)

This sounds like the last thing someone who can see would want to have happen to their retinas.

Re:O Rly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42081667)

But what if we give them no say in the matter?

Missing (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079499)

"For the first time, blind people could read street signs with a device that translates letters into Braille and beams the results directly onto a person's eye."

There's something missing here. I can't... quite... put my finger on it. I'm sure I'll get it in a minute.

Re:Missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079525)

This is inappropriate, refrain from speech for at least a day. It will pass soon.

Re:Missing (3, Funny)

Swave An deBwoner (907414) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079577)

You missed .. reading the article. No worries, just click on the link and you'll be fine.

Re:Missing (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079625)

You missed .. reading the article. No worries, just click on the link and you'll be fine.

I was making a joke about the poor summary by the submitter and miserable lack of editorial quality by the approver. And I'd click on the link but someone sent me a youtube of a cat. Humor is such a subjective thing. So, a man walks into a bar...

Re:Missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079921)

No. We need to beam the article directly onto electrodes implanted on his retina.

Re:Missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42081785)

I use a touch screen with Windows 8. I can't click a link, I poke it. Oh, I see what I did there. Oh, I see..wait

Re:Missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080931)

"For the first time, blind people could read street signs with a device that translates letters into Braille and beams the results directly onto a person's eye."

There's something missing here. I can't... quite... put my finger on it. I'm sure I'll get it in a minute.

If you read the article you'd see how it's primarily design for people who've still got functioning neurons. It does work for certain blind people.

Re:Missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42081201)

LOL I love this. You, I would invite to dinner. The humorless Internet traffic cops, not so much.

Re:Missing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42081719)

Braille : Small sharp dots.
Retina : Sensitive and fragile human organ.

"Hey, what are you doing ?"
"We are giving you the new reading aid for the blind."
"But I'm not blind !"
"You will be."

Re:Missing (1)

I_Voter (987579) | about a year and a half ago | (#42082151)

If this article was designed as click-bait - perhaps that explains quality of the articles we see on Slashdot.

Re:Missing (1)

Samizdata (1093963) | about a year ago | (#42089491)

And, as per the discussion on ad-blocking, that pissed me right off. I am on a slow DSL connection and their streaming ad was not only choppily useless, but ate a bit of bandwidth for nothing I wanted to deal with at all.

WAKE ME (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079505)

WHEN IT TICKLES :)

Why not just use the letter? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079543)

I was always under the impression that the braille language is meant to be touched, not "read" via sight. Wouldn't it make more sense to just project the letters into the person's retina vs. the dots for Braille?

Re:Why not just use the letter? (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079617)

I was always under the impression that the braille language is meant to be touched, not "read" via sight. Wouldn't it make more sense to just project the letters into the person's retina vs. the dots for Braille?

because the blind people do NOT know what the letter is usually, but they know braille.

don't need to retrain them to use the device, i'm sure one that display letters would be made later.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (2)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42081323)

because the blind people do NOT know what the letter is usually, but they know braille.

Where? Every blind person I have known could read letters on a plastic sheet, and write using a special scratching pen. Not to say anything about using a tactile display for zooming in on computer displays.

While Braille may be good (but not great) for finger reading, and has lots of momentum, it doesn't mean Braille is good for eye reading.

Our latin letters probably aren't the best either, but at least they contain enough extra information that the letters tend to be readable even if partially obscured, at any angle, and even when superimposed (like letters used to be written crosshatch, both horizontally and vertically on top of each other, to save on paper and weight).

Braille is much more finicky. It may have been chosen here because all they can reliably give the person is a few on/off points, but even then, I think investing the time in devising a system specifically for the application would have been worthwhile.

A best case of "up to 89% accurate" really means "mostly a hell of a lot worse, but never better".

Re:Why not just use the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42090223)

Braille is a lot better alphabet for reading with limited vision. A single character only requires 6 points of light to project, allowing each point to fill a sizeable portion of the retina. In contrast, a latin character requires at least 20 points (think dot-matrix LED signs, the small ones generally use 4 pixels wide, 5 pixel tall characters), and has several ambiguous characters

Re:Why not just use the letter? (3, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42082109)

I was always under the impression that the braille language is meant to be touched, not "read" via sight. Wouldn't it make more sense to just project the letters into the person's retina vs. the dots for Braille?

because the blind people do NOT know what the letter is usually, but they know braille.

don't need to retrain them to use the device, i'm sure one that display letters would be made later.

People with retinitis pigmentosa are formerly sighted. It's not a given that they know braille and almost a given that they can recognized standard letters. Braille was chosen because of the crudity of the device.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about a year ago | (#42092589)

I guess the trials are being done with braille, but eventually they will be able to project whatever font the user wants, even *shudder* comic sans.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079627)

In the case of people born blind, they were only taught to read braille. It might actually be more difficult for someone to learn a brand new character set AND adjust to "seeing" the words.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079843)

Yeah well, I have a hard time adjusting to seeing braille everywhere! Where's my cool eye-ball modification?

Re:Why not just use the letter? (2)

DaemonDan (2773445) | about a year and a half ago | (#42081239)

According to the article this only works with people who have had a degenerative eye disease called retinal pigmentosis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retinitis_pigmentosa), which slowly destroys the person's peripheral vision. It wouldn't work with people who didn't have functional optic nerves to begin with. I think it's more a case of braille being simpler to transmit via electrodes (number and position of dots compared to the entire shape of a letter) as other commenters have mentioned.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079643)

I was wondering the same thing. It's probably easier to display dots though, than all the shapes needed to displayl le tters.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (4, Informative)

korgitser (1809018) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079653)

I'd also go with the fact that braille is 6-bit byte binary. That's about as simple i/o as you can get in this area.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (5, Insightful)

Mal-2 (675116) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079681)

Braille is a six-bit binary code. This was done largely because the previous system -- raised type being "read" by fingers -- was slow and inadequate. Whether the input comes through your fingertips or through the optic nerve matters little. If the bandwidth is low, it helps a lot of the content is pre-digitized. That's what Braille does.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42081571)

I don't know that I agree with you

I think it's because the previous systems was slow and inadequate to produce-- not consume....

Re:Why not just use the letter? (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | about a year and a half ago | (#42084347)

It was both. Check it out yourself [brailler.com] .

One modest improvement I have seen was a book with both Braille, and printed letters in the same position. This way, both sighted and blind people could read the same book, at the same time. The blind will be unaware of the print, and the sighted will see only deformations of the paper.

The blind know braille but maybe not latin letters (4, Insightful)

kawabago (551139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079795)

You can't assume blind people are familiar with the alphabet as we see it. They recognize a letter as a dot pattern instead of latin letter. It means 'a' to them be they might never know what 'a' actually looks like.

Re:The blind know braille but maybe not latin lett (2)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42080011)

They recognize a letter as a dot pattern instead of latin letter. It means 'a' to them be they might never know what 'a' actually looks like./blockquote:

"A" looks like this: .

Re:The blind know braille but maybe not latin lett (1)

LoneTech (117911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42082349)

Nope, it looks like this: â
ââzâ"â' âââââ'ââ'ââz âââzâzâ'â--âZâ

Re:The blind know braille but maybe not latin lett (1)

LoneTech (117911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42082415)

Sorry. I naïvely expected Slashdot to do something right, and not mangle my text input beyond all recognition. Slashdot filters out Braille letters even if entered in HTML entity form, so what I tried to enter does not seem possible.

Re:The blind know braille but maybe not latin lett (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080021)

No maybe about it. *OF COURSE* they know Latin letters, to read embossed lettering on signs where no one's bothered with Braille.

Re:The blind know braille but maybe not latin lett (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | about a year and a half ago | (#42081879)

No maybe about it. *OF COURSE* they know Latin letters, to read embossed lettering on signs where no one's bothered with Braille.

I never saw Braille until coming to the US. Now, I see it in elevators, select train station support beams indicating the station's name, and some entrances to buildings. It's magical enough seeing blind people move about freely crossing streets, and navigating their way around a city. Consider that the danger of edges in train platforms is exponentially higher to them, as well as the more mundane uncertainty on what TRAIN they are boarding, as well as the exact number of stops they must count before getting out --to a station where they don't normally ask for confirmation from a sighted passer-by.

Seeing how that seems fairly advanced, I wondered how it is that the blind are expected to know EXACTLY where those Braille plaques are supposed to be. I'm sure with smartphone GPS apps similar to talking clocks, they are living in a better world. Maybe civilization will move away from those randomly placed tags* and using RFID so that the same smartphones can alert them.

* Braille in public signs, ironically, is not much larger than 1/4 inch. Even with latin characters, at that font size, we ourselves would need to come real close to read the message. Speaking of complexity, it's interesting to just find out that there's Braille in Japan [wordpress.com] , and it looks simpler than their Kanji. Hilarious that they care enough to put a "Sake" label atop aluminum cans [wikipedia.org] so they won't fall into the wrong hands.

Re:The blind know braille but maybe not latin lett (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#42085895)

Consider that the danger of edges in train platforms is exponentially higher to them

Really? So what's the other variable, the one that increases arithmetically as the danger follows a geometric progression?

I wondered how it is that the blind are expected to know EXACTLY where those Braille plaques are supposed to be.

On the Brussels metro there are paths laid out with different textured floor tiles.

Re:The blind know braille but maybe not latin lett (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42082133)

You CAN assume that when the patient is blind because of retinitis pigmentosa, as the article states.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42079957)

I was always under the impression that the braille language is meant to be touched, not "read" via sight. Wouldn't it make more sense to just project the letters into the person's retina vs. the dots for Braille?

Because a blind person is not familiar with written letters. They wouldn't know an "A" if they saw one. They would, however, be familiar with the Braille pattern for "A."

Re:Why not just use the letter? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42080791)

Sure, if you want to make them learn an entire new alphabet they're never going to use in any other context.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080985)

Sure, if you want to make them learn an entire new alphabet they're never going to use in any other context.

Until they get the upgraded eye that gives them 100x100 pixels monochrome vision.

Re:Why not just use the letter? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#42085985)

What if they wanted to write for sighted people?

Are there blind people who can do handwriting? I guess it must be pretty hard to learn if you've always been blind, but since sighted people can write while looking elsewhere ones who become blind can probably remember how to do it.

a trial of one (0)

bigpickle (2647701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079721)

color me impressed with their extensive research. Why do people rush to publish such limited results?

Re:a trial of one (4, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079771)

These aren't drug trials here, you don't need a large sample size to determine probable effects. The guy is blind. If he can suddenly read after using this device we can be pretty certain the device is responsible.

Re:a trial of one (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080817)

i think we need a double blind study before we can be certain.

Re:a trial of one (1)

dissy (172727) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079833)

color me impressed with their extensive research. Why do people rush to publish such limited results?

So they put this device in a blind person and now he can read.
You are seriously arguing that something ELSE might be the cause of his being able to read? What else are you convinced is causing this instead?

They know exactly what method the device works by, and so know exactly which forms of blindness this will and will not work with. Those who's retinas do not function but the neurons still do.

Do you make more than one prototype once your first prototype shows the basic method works? Why would you do that?

An army of one (3, Funny)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42080339)

Do you make more than one prototype once your first prototype shows the basic method works? Why would you do that?

Pickle's worried about the placebo effect.

flashback to flash sound ads (2)

cdxta (1170917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079741)

Ready?, two ad videos that start playing with audio on the same page?

Re:flashback to flash sound ads (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080195)

Hmm... haven't noticed anything like that in ages. Must be this Noscript thing I'm using (includes Flashblock functionality), where the only Flash that runs is the one I allow explicitly. It also prevents news tickers on certain websites from trampling on my CPU, which is also useful.

Printed braille (1)

advantis (622471) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079759)

I imagine the OCR is overkill, but this invention could really make printed braille [flickr.com] useful, and turn the fail I just linked to into a win (if you ignore the braille typo). I imagine the recognition would be a lot easier to do (to the likes of QR codes), and it would be really easy to retrofit to existing signs.

Re:Printed braille (1)

Tokah (859694) | about a year and a half ago | (#42081415)

That isn't a typo. Dot3-Dot4 is the grade 2 braille contraction for "st", just as the symbol at the end of the sign is short for "er". (I'm also unsure why they called out one contraction as wrong, but not the other one?)

"very good!": (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079823)

10 (padding)
10 (padding)
11 (padding)
very (contracted)

11 (padding)
11 (padding)
00 (padding)
"go" (contracted)
10 (padding)
01 (padding)
10 (padding)
"o"
11 (padding)
01 (padding)
00 (padding)
"d"
00 (padding)
11 (padding)
10 (padding)
"!"
*padding for line-quota

Another Great Slashdot Summary (2, Insightful)

neoshroom (324937) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079829)

Slashdot Summary:

"An anonymous reader writes 'For the first time, blind people could read street signs with a device that translates letters into Braille and beams the results directly onto a person's eye.'"

Actual Article:

"The technology, used primarily for patients with retinal pigmentosis which causes patients to lose the use of their retina but to still have working neurons, can take up to 10 seconds to convert a single letter and minutes to read a single word, and can only be used with words that are printed in a large font and held up close to a person's face. Street signs, for example, cannot be read. "

__

Re:Another Great Slashdot Summary (5, Informative)

dissy (172727) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079913)

If you read a bit further in the article, you'll note the part you quoted is the description of the PREVIOUS model device.

The CURRENT model, which the summary is talking about, being an improvement to the original, CAN read street signs and at one letter a second.

I use caps since you don't obviously don't read everything presented :P

Re:Another Great Slashdot Summary (4, Funny)

neoshroom (324937) | about a year and a half ago | (#42080563)

PREVIOUS CURRENT CAN? I say, previous current cannot nor could it ever.

Re:Another Great Slashdot Summary (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42082153)

Slashdot Summary: "An anonymous reader writes 'For the first time, blind people could read street signs with a device that translates letters into Braille and beams the results directly onto a person's eye.'" Actual Article: "The technology, used primarily for patients with retinal pigmentosis which causes patients to lose the use of their retina but to still have working neurons, can take up to 10 seconds to convert a single letter and minutes to read a single word, and can only be used with words that are printed in a large font and held up close to a person's face. Street signs, for example, cannot be read. " __

Read on. That part describes an older generation device. With the new device, implanted in just one patient, they demonstrated that the patient COULD read street signs and read much faster than the old device, which had an output that to be read with the fingers.

One word per second (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079851)

Beware ..... of ...... the ......vicious .......dog.......

Auggghhh!

Re:One word per second (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080101)

That comment put this in my head instantly:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiT_5cr3tYI

Being blind is fine (1)

cyberzephyr (705742) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079935)

I was legally blind for 2 years.

I am fortunate to be able to see again.

Think about how it feels to lose your sight.

Re:Being blind is fine (1, Interesting)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#42079989)

Think about how it feels to lose your sight.

I have thought about if a few times, and well, I'd lose everything I care about if I lost my eye-sight. If there was zero chance of me getting my eye-sight back within a year I would not hesitate a second to commit a suicide.

Re:Being blind is fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080095)

Do tell, what happened and how you were able to see again?
- Legally blind does not always mean 'truly' blind, right?

Re:Being blind is fine (1)

cyberzephyr (705742) | about a year and a half ago | (#42080135)

I got mugged a long time ago in D.C. i had to learn Braile to be on the safe side. Not completely blind but blind enough to realise the situation.

89% of the time, it works every time (3, Insightful)

renhwa (2254034) | about a year and a half ago | (#42080175)

"In a trial conducted on a single patient who already used the Argus II device, the person was able to correctly read Braille letters up to 89 percent of the time, and most of the inaccuracy appeared when the participant misread a single letter."

...so by "the person was able to correctly read Braille letters up to 89 percent of the time," they mean that at one point during the test, they showed the guy a 9 letter word, and he got 1 letter wrong. Did the patient 1/9 letters wrong overall, or was this one rare mistake? How many words did they have the patient read? The technology is amazing, don't get me wrong, but somebody needs to tell their product testing/PR crews how to convey performance in a remotely meaningful way.

Errr... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42080709)

If I'm having a freaking surgery in my eye I better SEE after that!

Finger in the eye to read it has gotta hurt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42081085)

Can't it be printed somewhere easier to read?

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