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Implants Allow the Blind to See

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the cyber-eyes dept.

354

gihan_ripper writes "Neurosurgeon Kenneth Smith has performed a revolutionary operation on St Louis resident Cheri Robertson, connecting a camera directly to her optic nerve. The rig is in principle similar to Geordi La Forge's visor, albeit in very rudimentary form. At present, the 'image' consists of a number of white dots, as on an LED display. There are also governmental restrictions on this research, forcing Kenneth and his team to fly to Portugal to carry out the operation. If this technology takes off, the future will be bright for the sight-impaired."

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354 comments

Infrared? (5, Funny)

AoT (107216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072586)

Can I get the infrared/untraviolet model?

Re:Infrared? (3, Funny)

Adrilla (830520) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072600)

Just wait until the X-ray version surfaces. Every pervert will have one.

Re:Infrared? (5, Funny)

AoT (107216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072622)

Hey, you got some nice femurs there, baby.

Re:Infrared? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072629)

Actually x-ray would just be like looking at the world as one big x-ray slide. Now a combination of infrared and using it during the day can cause clothes to dissapear, or so said a privacy article about cameras with infrared capability. So yeah, OP right, you wrong (that is, assuming the OP was being a pervert ;)).

Re:Infrared? (3, Informative)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072654)

To look at the world "like one big xray slide" you'd have to carry around a source of xrays and put them behind the subject, then use your xray sensitive eyes (good luck developing those) to detect the rays coming through the subject. It's not exactly like there are a buncha xrays flying through us all the time, ya know.

Re:Infrared? (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072729)

And that's putting aside the effects of constantly bombarding your face with x-rays :-p

Re:Infrared? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072759)

ANY SACRIFICE IS WORTH IT FOR NEKKID CHICKS

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Re:Infrared? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072786)

no, what perverts want is THz imaging, you'll see the nipples and bush then

Re:Infrared? (1)

AoT (107216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072609)

Man, and I tried so hard not to write "ultraviolent".

Foiled again.

Re:Infrared? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072700)

Got milk (plus)?

Lots of possible mods (5, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072626)

Camera tech is pretty well-known. Adding IR, UV, magnification, auto-adjusting for sunlight/night vision is all fairly trivial once you have the optic connection.

Imagine switching to sepia tone whenever you want that "wild west" feel.

The hard part, of course, is the resolution. Stimulating specific optic nerves is tricky, but fortunately your brain is good at dealing with odd input even if you don't get the connection quite right. It reminds me of the experiment where someone wore mirror glasses that flipped the world upside-down. After a week or so, everything seemed normal.

Re:Lots of possible mods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072738)

McNihil, is that you?

Re:Infrared? (1)

qortra (591818) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072711)

And that's just the beginning. Soon, you'll just plug your brain right into a computer. Instant access to information. Try coming up with fair knowledge assessments when everybody has the entire internet wired into their brain.

Also, this would be a good alternative to LCD; now, you'll REALLY be able to see sounds. And when they do the same for the olfactory, you'll be able to smell colors...

Re:Infrared? (2, Interesting)

AoT (107216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072752)

Yeah, until you get a virus.

Re:Infrared? (0, Troll)

lgordon (103004) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072737)

FTA:

The infrared model is available with the additional restriction that the patient be of elven blood.

Re:Infrared? (1)

Chrispy1000000 the 2 (624021) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072928)

Well, your forgetting most of the underdwelling races, like the dwarves and the gnomes. And there's always the possiblity of a transfusion to become a half blood.

Re:Infrared? (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072766)

I think a better one would be implanting additional eye units for sighted people.
That way, you really can have eyes in the back of your head (all parents should understand this one)

Re:Infrared? (1)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072836)

To connect to the optic nerve? No, thanks, I think I'll use a goggle.

When asked what he wanted to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072587)

One man ironically replied "Implants, breast implants."

People of Earth (3, Funny)

butterwise (862336) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072590)

Resistance is futile...

omg, I see a 0 (0, Offtopic)

Moofar (914202) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072591)

0 posts, eye have to make it 1.

Alternative Applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072594)

Now if only it could be modded to see through clothes...

Uh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072611)

This is not new. This has been done for almost a decade. Unless the resolution is sigificantly greater than it used to be (about a 15x15 black and white grid), then this is not news.

Re:Uh? (2, Informative)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072620)

It sure is news of the patient isn't sent into a fit of spasms from a seizure every 45 minutes while the camera is activated.
You know, like what happened 10 years ago.

Re:Uh? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072663)

FTFA:

"When I realized yes, I am going to be blind, I thought, I guess I'm going to learn to do things a little differently now," Robertson says. And she did. She traveled to Portugal to become the 16th person in the world to have special electrodes implanted in her brain. With the help of a device, she could see again!


While it seems to be a rare operation, the parent was right: this has been done before.

Re:Uh? (2, Insightful)

Adrilla (830520) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072669)

The real news is that this procedure can't even be done in the U.S. America is supposed to be the land of the free and they can't even do an operation that gives a woman some sight back. What does that say about our progressiveness (is that a word?). The same goes for stem cells but I won't even get into that. I just wish we would get our head out of our asses when it comes to doing cutting edge surgery. You always hear it's coming out of Switzerland or Sweden (or Portugal in this case), why couldn't this be done here.

Re:Uh? (5, Funny)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072775)

" I just wish we would get our head out of our asses when it comes to doing cutting edge surgery"

Unfortunately the operation to remove one's head from one's ass is banned in America due to government restrictions :-/

Re:Uh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072821)

But it wasn't guaranteed to give her sight back and the chance was very real that it could give her brain damage. The ethical question is whether she is competent to accept the surgery because, basically, the doctor has promised her the chance for sight which could cloud her judgement regarding the chance for colateral damage. He, on the other hand, has almost nothing to lose for a lot to gain.

Re:Uh? (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072876)

After a fair amount of travel, I've come to one conclusion about any country created by humans. Each and every single one will be filled with stupid, illogical, laws whose end effects almost nobody likes. Even in the netherlands you'll find some pretty harmless herbs are illegal that one can buy in a health food store in most other western countries. It's a symptom of having large groups of people whose entire job consists of creating new laws, even if there's too many as it is.

Neato (2, Insightful)

Jrabbit05 (943335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072628)

Maybe us geeks won't all go blind, well at least the ones of us that could afford this in our old age.

Re:Neato (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072641)

Heck, a lot of these geeks went blind in adolescence...

That depends... (3, Funny)

MrPower (687654) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072656)

Maybe us geeks won't all go blind, well at least the ones of us that could afford this in our old age.

Of course that all depends on whether or not the blindness we get from wanking is caused by degraded eyes or degraded brains...

Wow (1, Troll)

daddyrief (910385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072630)

Integration between electronics and the brain? Impressive.

Too bad good ol' W. and his buddies are against medical/scientific progress.

Re:Wow (1)

daddyrief (910385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072667)

How is this flamebait? The article explicitly says the patient had to fly out-of-country, because the procedure couldn't be done here in the US. A look at who is killing effective legislation in medicine and science renders my point valid.

Re:Wow (1, Insightful)

gameforge (965493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072734)

Well for one thing you pretty much accused President Bush of forbidding her to have the surgery. Somehow I doubt he's the reason; there's probably legal restrictions in place because eyesight operation is scarily remnant of the Holocaust (with the Nazis trying to change the color of poeples' eyes & such, trying to create a perfect race & whatnot). Albeit, I don't think this type of surgery is what they had in mind, but think about the possibilities.

If something like the Holocaust ever happened again, people with perfectly good eyesight could be held hostage and could have special implants done to their eyes... similar to this, but instead of seeing through a camera, you'd see... whatever they wanted you to see.

Messing with a human's visual perception has some scary implications. What if you had an X-Ray camera implanted or nightvision? A bionic human is not out of reality with a device like this. Of course in this case, it sounds like this woman was the recipient of a true miracle.

Btw, I didn't have mod points and I didn't call your post Flamebait (I don't think it is). But don't be so quick to blame President Bush for everything... not that I'm one of his biggest fans or anything.

Re:Wow (1)

daddyrief (910385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072841)

Your nazi comment is ridiculous. Yeah, I actually think the Portugese Nazi Party is behind this. This article has nothing to DO with eye color even, the lady lost her eyes. This is a different century for god's (or lack thereof) sake.

She is, obviously:

A)Blind (in need of the procedure, no nazis here)
B)a volunteer (not against her will)

You also really took my off-hand Bush comment a bit far.

Re:Wow (1)

gameforge (965493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072878)

Well I'm sorry, that's not what I meant. Of course I don't think there's a bunch of Portugese neo-nazis attempting to create a digital race or something. But, I can see why a law in the US might prevent any kind of experimental optical messing-with (and that law probably predates this type of technology by a longshot). Ultimately, laws like that force us to think about the implications of our medical research and development (just like the cloning and genetic alteration/modification laws) before we put a stamp of approval on it.

It's certainly time to revisit the law. I have to admit, when I heard about a law preventing the surgery from taking place in the US, I did think of the Nazis.

Re:Wow (4, Insightful)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072742)

It was illegal before Bush. People have been pushing this kind of thing for a long time, and have been doing it outside of the country for a long time.

It's easy to blame everything on Bush... but really stupid too. By pinning everything on Bush, you ignore those really responsible.

Don't like the war in Iraq? Want to blame Bush? Did you forget that it requires an act of Congress to declare war, or do you just prefer to let the legislative branch delude you so they can get re-elected?

Re:Wow (1, Informative)

daddyrief (910385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072804)

good ol' W. and his buddies -- aka, the Religious Right.

Obviously it was illegal before Bush/the current Congress. You can hardly say that the Right isn't responsible however, especially during this current administration, for keeping these types of research from coming to light. The technology and opportunities are here now, too bad 'religion' and 'morals' aren't synonymous with 'progress'.

And yes, I want to blame Bush and his whole cabinet for the Iraq war. It isn't entirely his fault, but to blame him is asinine. He stepped out of his bounds, fabricated stories and evidence, lied to millions, and killed thousands of people. Seems like reason enough for blame to me.

Re:Wow (1)

Corbu Mulak (931063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072807)

Technically, we have not declared war since WWII.

Re:Wow (1)

daddyrief (910385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072847)

Technically, you don't have to call it a war for warfare to occur.

Re:Wow (1)

wrf3 (314267) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072764)

Are you sure this is progress? Where do we draw the line between Barry Bonds and steroids and this type of procedure? Can this surgery only be done if one is handicapped in some way? What happens when the handicapped when augmented become more able than those who cannot have the surgery? Will we forbid computer implants for the "rich" because it will give them an unfair advantage over the "poor"? Do we really want to become the Borg? Lots of questions and I don't claim to have the answers. But since I already referred to Star Trek, a quote comes to mind: "Just because we can do a thing doesn't mean that we should do that thing."

Re:Wow (2, Insightful)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072832)

"Lots of questions and I don't claim to have the answers"

I do.

"Are you sure this is progress?"

Yes.

"Can this surgery only be done if one is handicapped in some way?"

No, but until the result of operation is better than "normal" eyesight, it would be considered a downgrade for most people.

"What happens when the handicapped when augmented become more able than those who cannot have the surgery?"

Then not being able to have the surgery becomes the new handicap.

"Will we forbid computer implants for the "rich" because it will give them an unfair advantage over the "poor"?"

No. The operation costs money, which is something the rich have (apart from times where the rich donate to give the poor chance to recieve such tech). Plus you can't really ban someone from having something just because they've been more successful in life (or have been born into family success etc).

"Do we really want to become the Borg?"

Yes. But without the nasty makeup. Or the mind-linking, so we can keep having our dirty disgusting thoughts (and keep them to ourselves when we really need to).

This is just technology. The only thing different about it than other technology out there is it's interface. If you wanna see in the dark, there's nightvision goggles (which will cost MUCH less than having one sugically implanted). If you wanna see some chick nekkid, you just wait til she's asleep. This is no more disturbing than that.

Re:Wow (1)

Carlbunn (817714) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072898)

I was going to mod you up, but then you wrote "nekkid" English isn't even my first language, but it still sounds nasty

Re:Wow (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072935)

hehe, it was only actually because someone on an earlier post wrote 'nekkid', it was more mocking than actual usage, but I forgive you nonetheless :-)

Restrictions? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072633)

Why are there restrictions on research such as this? What kind of restrictions and how did they come about?

Re:Restrictions? (5, Insightful)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072790)

There have been restrictions in place for a long time for a variety of reasons. Most of all, it has to do with preventing medical experimentation on people who feel they have nothing left to lose, which could result in exploitation, particularly for ambitious doctors who want to make a name for themselves. So now, to justify such experiments, a lot of work has to go into validating the theoretical research, evaluating the potential risks, and justifying the potential payoff.

I do feel it has become too much though - I don't believe it is the government's job to prevent us from making rash decisions.

Restrictions on research? (2, Insightful)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072908)

TFA paints a very different picture:

He says, right now, governmental restrictions may get in the way of performing the surgery in the United States. "There were no governmental or hospital problems with getting permission to do the experimental operation in Portugal, whereas, it would be almost impossible here. Plus, it was much cheaper -- about one-third of the cost in the hospital as it would be in U.S. hospitals," he says

Nowhere does it say anything about government restrictions on the research :-/

Sensationalisation (wow, that's a longer word than I thought) anyone?

Does anyone have a link with data on the res? (5, Interesting)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072635)

Last I heard -- several years ago -- they had enough resolution to see a a black/white machine just about comperable to a single ASCII character rendered on a 1985 era CRT. That would mean an "image" would have about as much clarity as, say, one of the falling mushrooms from an original Centipeded game. Not exactly high res, but a positive step.

Could be useful with edge detection etc (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072747)

With a nice machine crunching video into edges, I guess even a 32x32 image could be useful to show the edges of sidewalks, obstructions etc. All sounds well within the scope of a PDA-level CPU.

Oh absolutely. There are a few levels of goals (1, Insightful)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072760)

From a goals perspective, there are major leaps forward:

* ability to avoid obstacles
* ability to see individual people
* ability to differentiate between people
* ability to discern expressions
* ability to read enlarged print
* ability to operate visually oriented equipment
* ability to read normally
* ability to drive

Taking things one step at a time, its a long road but hopefully one that is linear rather than logarythmically difficult.

DARPA (5, Interesting)

MadUndergrad (950779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072638)

If they're not already, DARPA will be all over this like stink on a monkey. They'd love to have soldiers will what will amount to wallhacks.

On an unrelated note, if they could make it so that they didn't need to cut open my head to do it, I'd love to have infrared/ultraviolet/telescopic/ultrasonic vision.

Re:DARPA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072823)

Hmm, maybe they could make these into some sort of... goggle...

Not optic nerve. (5, Interesting)

incom (570967) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072642)

Article states that electrodes are implated into the back of the brain. If it really were the optic nerve it would be more significant, less danger = wider adoption.

Re:Not optic nerve. (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072690)

Also harder to reach and plumb in.
Unless of course you wanted wires coming out of your eye or even worse, a nose cam.

Re:Not optic nerve. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072708)

Your idea would be well and good for many blind people... Just realize that conditions like glaucoma entail a deterioration in the optic nerve, so they wouldn't be too thrilled with that being the only way to use it.

Re:Not optic nerve. (4, Informative)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072783)

The optical nerve goes to the back of the brain.

Re:Not optic nerve. (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072860)

Your visual cortex is at the back of your brain - my guess is the optic nerve isn't wireless, so much reach there. Oh how cool if it was wireless! Could use implants without having to open up... although to danger of bluetooth viruses could make it just as dangerous. New warning: don't look at attachments unless you know who's sending them to you!

Edge detection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072647)

Back in university, I seem to recall one of the profs mentioning that a hex pattern like a honeycomb tended to work better for image recognition than square pixels. It changes the topology possible for doing edge detection. If you use a pointillism filter on the hex pattern, you can get a pretty good "hash" of an image. The trick is to focus more on contrast than on color -- check the ratio of rods and cones in the human eye.

Voice recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072749)

Audio is similar to an FFT pattern matching filter. There is a reason tube amps "sound" better even though their statistics are worse. Even vs. odd harmonics. A tube preamp cleans up the digital hash and makes the angels sing when playing female vocals.

Women have much more sensitive hearing, statistically.

After the FFT has done coarse categorization, you have the building blocks to begin looking for patterns. It's important to filter out the highest and lowest frequencies as they distract from the actual human vocal range.

Neurons detect and fire semi-stochastically with a little bit of randomness (Schroedinger's cat). They connect in three dimensions, not two.

What could go wrong! (3, Funny)

Ankou (261125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072655)

How ironic, I just so happen to find this site today! Why go for this when Lasik is an easy to do at home project? Check it out here [lasikathome.com] . I guess after you sear your eyeball as in step 3, you can replace it with one of those cameras.

PRK, not LASIK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072722)

That's not LASIK -- the provided device doesn't appear to include a microkeratome. I'm guessing it's supposed to be PRK instead.
</pedant>

Still pretty funny though.

Re:PRK, not LASIK (1)

Ankou (261125) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072748)

Hey you going to argue with Dr. Khadim? I mean how can you not trust that doctor, he has a lab coat on and everything!

Re:PRK, not LASIK (2, Funny)

Neko-kun (750955) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072884)

Simple.

He can talk the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk.

I mean, he's still wearing glasses.
 
How am I supposed to trust a guy that obviously hasn't gone through the procedure himself?

Re:PRK, not LASIK (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072758)

That's not LASIK -- the provided device doesn't appear to include a microkeratome. I'm guessing it's supposed to be PRK instead.
They're claiming the device has a femtosecond laser to cut the flaps in the cornea. So it is LASIK.

I love the "don't blink" warning.

Guess (4, Insightful)

Boronx (228853) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072661)

Without reading the article, I will guess that this sort of advancement will benefit those who have lost their sight but not those who never had it.

Making brain neurons light-sensitive (4, Informative)

cyberied (773639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072670)

Another strategy was just invented: if you lost your photoreceptors, just make the other neurons in the retina or brain sensitive to light. A group just managed this today, for the first time, in mice. Blind mice, who had been treated with viruses that cause the targeted cells to express light-activated channels, were able to regain transmission of information about the external world to cortex. This was recently reported in a blog [neurodudes.com] , and in other media.

Re:Making brain neurons light-sensitive (1)

applejack2006 (966437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072751)

The light-activation of neurons would only work in outdoor, very-bright light. But still it's pretty cool. Forbes had a write up on this [forbes.com] too.

Re:Making brain neurons light-sensitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072837)

I like the title of this report, on the study showing that making neurons sensitive to light could enable them to act like the natural photoreceptors of the eye: Pond Scum could restore Vision [scienceagogo.com] :)

Was blind, but now I see... (5, Insightful)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072672)

So sad that massive bureaucracy and misinformation makes this kind of research too difficult and expensive.

hmm! (3, Interesting)

virgil_disgr4ce (909068) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072673)

I must admit, I find it very difficult to trust any "journalism" with that many exclamation marks: "With the help of a device, she could see again!" This is written a lot like a press release, not a news article. Has this not been published in any major scientific journals?

Difficulties in the US (2, Interesting)

BioCS.Nerd (847372) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072675)

I didn't quite understand from the article why this procedure was prevented in the US, aside from cost. Could anyone shed some light on the matter?

Re:Difficulties in the US (4, Informative)

blincoln (592401) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072740)

I didn't quite understand from the article why this procedure was prevented in the US, aside from cost.

This is more or less the same technique that's been researched for decades - I saw a film (as opposed to videotape) of it in junior high when I was a kid.

There are a number of problems - as others have mentioned, it tends to cause seizures in its users. IIRC this is because the apparatus itself is fairly crude and overloads the part of the brain it's connected to. It also doesn't work very well - the resolution now is not a whole lot better than back then.

Obviously an argument can be made that someone who loses their sight may consider any visual ability valuable enough to outweigh the risks, but in this case I think the FDA is right. This particular technology is not mature enough to allow as a commercial product. There are others in development that IMO are more promising.

Re:Difficulties in the US (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072850)

I believe that this stems from certain governmental regulations and restrictions on medical research, notably FDA approval of implantable medical devices. It takes quite a bit of testing and analysis before that approval is given. If I remember correctly, the cited news articles states that a major complication in this regard was the possibility of infection at the point of entry through the skull into the brain.

Now (1)

drgroove (631550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072676)

she doesn't have to wear that stupid hairband over her eyes anymore.

Geordi will be so happy when he learns about this!

Not for every blind person (3, Informative)

shizzle (686334) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072687)

Note that patients need to have had sight in the past for this device to work. The visual cortex doesn't develop in people that were born blind, so their brain doesn't know what to do with these inputs. (Like in the movie "At First Sight".)

Pretty cool nonetheless.

error in article text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072709)

The actual article reads:
> WHO IS IT FOR? In order for the procedure and the device to work,
> patients must have once had vision. They also must have lost both eyeballs or optic nerves.

The electrodes are connected to the brain directly, not to the optic nerves.

In addition, this procedure has been done before (the article says Cheri is 16th person to get this surgery).

Not the first such device (2, Interesting)

atomicstrawberry (955148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072718)

I recall seeing something like this late last year, but it was slightly different. In principle the same thing - electrodes connected into the optic nerve - but in this case it was a set of 16 electrodes in a 4x4 array. Essentially they had the guy equipped with the tech put a pair of glasses on that had a camera in the center. Each frame was broken down into the aforementioned 4x4 grid, and then delivered directly into the optic nerve. 4x4 is not exactly high resolution though, so the guy was only really able to distinguish light areas from dark.

There was further research planned though. The next goal was to create a 64-electrode version (8x8), which should give the ability to distinguish large features in the image being viewed, such as being able to distinguish the approximate figure of someone standing just infront of you. Their eventual goal was to be able to also build essentially glass eyes which would have a camera mounted within and would remove the need to pass the electrodes through the skull and out underneath the skin to the area of the temple where the signal from the camera was delivered.

Anyway, I'm not sure if this is more results from the same research, or another group working along similar lines. I unfortunately don't have a link to the older material and TFA is a bit sparse on details.

Re:Not the first such device (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072754)

What a conundrum.
Your sight is restored after 20 years into a 4x4 block.

Would you go back into surgery for more if the chance of losing what you have already is there?

You cannot spend your whole life waiting for better eyesight so learn to adapt to what you have.
I am thankful for my (rather poor) eyesight and cannot ever see myself doing anything surgical to enhance it.

Re:Not the first such device (1)

atomicstrawberry (955148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072827)

What interests me is if there is a limit to this sort of technology. How many electrodes can they stick in there before they reach a saturation point at which they can no longer add any more? I'd expect that the limit would be something astronomical compared to 16 of them, but as the number increases their size would have to decrease proportionately, which would likely mean that the probability of successful 'installation' would be inversely proportional to the potential quality of vision. Also, to take the concept to its logical extreme, is it possible we could deliver a signal that is of higher resolution than the natural human eye? And of course if you take this tech to it's Sci-Fi extremes... if we can deliver an image into the optic nerve, does that mean we could do some sort of hybrid thing for people with working eyes where information could be mixed in?

Re:Not the first such device (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072862)

Not spectacular, but I certainly am glad I chose to keep my -4.25 glasses when everybody else was tripping over each other to get lasik or whatever was the eye surgery du jour.

Re:Not the first such device (1)

nedaf7 (851534) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072921)

You probably saw this on PBS's Scientific American Frontiers [pbs.org] . Funny coincidence, I just watched this episode last night... To watch it online, follow this link [pbs.org] .

This seems remarkably similar to what the doctor in the article called "the first [procedure] to reverse blindness in patients without eyes." The difference may be that the technique shown on Scientific Frontiers was for patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa [wikipedia.org] , an inherited, degenerative disease, while the article describes returning sight to a patient who lost her sight in a car accident. However, I can't see why the technique shown on Scientific Frontiers can't be used for those types of patients too, since the electrodes effectively act as rods and cones who's signal is sent directly to the optical nerve behind the eyes. The article seems to suggest that the electrodes in the new technique send signals directly to the visual cortex at the back of your brain ("An electrode inside the skull stimulates the back of the brain, which creates visuals images").

Turning it off? (2, Interesting)

Sean0michael (923458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072726)

What I wonder about is if this woman is able to not see. To put it another way, is the camera always on? Can she turn it off to go to sleep, or does she have to cover it? And does it require a power source? If so, how did they do it? Some technical specs on this would be awesome.

On the plus side, she could probably watch a solar eclipse without special glasses. That would be awesome.

Re:Turning it off? (2, Funny)

ampathee (682788) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072811)

On the plus side, she could probably watch a solar eclipse without special glasses. That would be awesome.
Ooh - a pattern of white dots in the shape of a solar eclipse - spectacular :)

monitor replacement (3, Funny)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072739)

Can I replace my monitor with a direct optical link?

Sony says: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072756)

Sony, interested, said they are developing DRM technologies for this device.

The miraculous eggplant (0, Offtopic)

Miss Emily Litella (704696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072772)

When I was a little girl, the only thing eggplants were good for was eating. But then disgraceful women started using them to make their chests bigger. It's an outrage I tell you, an outrage! Do you know how many starving children an eggplant can feed? And now we find out that those same eggplants could be used to help the blind. Someday eggplants will be able to cure cancer, but there won't be any left because Pamela Anderson used them all up.

nice (1)

bitlooter (949192) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072776)

I saw a program on PBS a while ago on this guy and his operation(was kinda a disappointment for one of the patients). Hope the new results are better.

Only useful for people who once had sight (5, Informative)

CorporalKlinger (871715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072778)

It's important to note that due to the way the human brain develops synaptic connections in the visual cortex, only humans who had sight from birth to some age beyond 3 to 5 years of age will benefit a great deal from such a procedure. While people who are blind from birth due to cataracts or other conditions obtain some visual perception when the cataract is later removed, most never develop the neural connections that allow them to identify what they're seeing. Everything from navigating around desks in a well-lit classroom to differentiating a face from a table, a television, a light bulb, or an automobile is all but impossible if the visual cortex doesn't develop properly in response to normal visual stimulus from birth. Sight is useless without the ability to percieve what one is really seeing. So while this is incredibly impressive and promising for people who had sight but lost it, don't expect that this will be a cure-all to allow people with all types of blindness to see again.

Re:Only useful for people who once had sight (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072930)

I once met a fellow who was blind, but he explained there was nothing wrong at all with his eyes or his optic nerve. He had a condition that disturbed the part of the brain that governs perception. He could see things but couldn't perceive at all what they were which made him effectively blind. Sadly, this new technology wouldn't do a thing for him.

Hacking the Optic Nerve. (3, Insightful)

M0b1u5 (569472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072780)

This is the start of something wonderful. The Auditory nerves have already been hacked, and we are well down the path towards providing 1,024 channels of sound to persons who have lost their hearing due to ear damage, or malformed ear hardware.

Hacking the Optic Nerve is the Next Big Thing because humans get 90% of all sensory input via the optic nerve. Once you've cracked that you're 90% of the way towards very, very advanced cyborgs, with the 'net being ubiquitously available, and displaying as a HUD-type device over our normal vision, or as a 6 foot screen when the eyes are closed.

Simultaneous to these developments, we are already taking steps towards being able to offer ages people perfect memories again, by the introduction of the artificial hippocampus. (To my knowledge there are no people, as yet, with this device, but it works in Rats)

Having the ability to crack the "memory code" of our brains with a better hippocampus, and allowing our brains to use external storage ("wet-wiring"?), coupled with optic and auditory nerve implants is going to allow humans to improve themselves mentally beyond the limits which evolution, chemistry and brain size have created.

I can't wait for my implants!

I hope they won't run windows Brain-Edition though.

Re:Hacking the Optic Nerve. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072925)

Ghost in the Shell, here we come!

(Motoko Kusanagi not included.)

Why fucking bother (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072812)

why not let natural selection take its course instead?

G0 AHEAD, FUCKING FLAME AWAY OR WASTE Y0UR GOD DAMNED MOD P0INTS FUCKTARDED SHITDOT SHEEPLE!

I can't wait... (4, Funny)

EverDense (575518) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072858)

Sounds like the ultimate peripheral for Duke Nukem Forever.

I for one.... (1)

Matilda the Hun (861460) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072869)

I'd like to know what the heck kind of laws we have that make this type of operation illegal to do in the US...

peripheral vision? (2, Interesting)

badrobot (864703) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072882)

At some point these devices may have enough resolution to do things like read a book. But, unless the camera is somehow connected to your real eye muscles it seems like there might be a problem....

As I read my computer screen right now, if I try to notice how my eyes move, I think I can really only read the word that my eyes are directly pointed at. I don't know if this phenomenon is a function of how the eye works or how the brain's visual center works or a combination of the two.

So, my question is, if someone sees using a camera mounted on their glasses (or whatever) will they have to move their entire head for every tiny little adjustment in what they want to look at?? will they have the ability to see with equal clarity a whole field of things at once??

If the first I think that would be a serious problem (not that they won't be happy to be able to see...). If it's the second then that could have some very cool advantages. For instance, if it works for one camera, how about 4 (one in each direction)?

Ooollddd news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072894)

very very old news. From the 1990's even.

breast implants? (2, Funny)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072895)

Did anyone else read that as breast implants that let the blind see? Until i stopped and comprehended for a second I had some interesting visions flashing through my mind. Get bigger boobs and replace those nipples with transplanted eyeballs! Sounds like a character off some cheap Star Trek knock-off.

Implants allow the blind to see (2, Funny)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072918)

Did anyone else think breast implants when reading the headline? I figure they could be seeing in brail with such implants....

Scary stuff (2, Funny)

Kangburra (911213) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072933)

Restistance is futile!

It's all starting to come together. :-(
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