The chip in Murcheson’s eye

Paul Raven @ 03-11-2010

The Guardian reports on a successful cyborg vision implant procedure; bonus points for the industry-standard soundbite disclaimer:

“The visual results they were able to achieve were, up until now, thought to be in the realms of science fiction,” said MacLaren.

The guy must read some pretty strict Mundane SF if he thinks this represents the apogee of artificial vision acuity as portrayed in science fiction…

A man left blind by a devastating eye disease has been able to read letters, tell the time and identify a cup and saucer on a table after surgeons fitted him with an electronic chip to restore his vision.

Whoa.

Snark aside, it’s actually a pretty impressive step along the path to full-on artificial vision.

Miikka Terho, 46, began losing his eyesight as a teenager and was completely blind when he joined a pilot study to test the experimental eye chip at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

[…]

“I’ve been completely blind in the central area for about 10 years. I had no reading ability and no way of recognising anybody any more. When the chip was first turned on, I just saw flashes and flickering. It didn’t make any sense. But in a matter of hours, everything started to get clearer and clearer,” Terho said.

“When I looked at people for the first time, they looked like ghosts. I knew it was a person, but they were hazy. Then things got sharper.

“It was such a good feeling to be able to focus on something, to see something right there, and maybe even reach out and grab it. I wasn’t able to identify what was in front of me on the street, but I knew when something was there, so I didn’t walk into it,” he added.

Interesting to note it took a while for the guy to start making sense of the input; neuroplasticity in action, maybe? Or just long-dormant visual centres slowly reopening for business? Whichever it is, it’s nice to find a story where technology is demonstrably improving people’s lives.


Canuck filmmaker considers streaming live video from his bionic eye

Paul Raven @ 14-06-2010

Well, this sidesteps the clunky implementations of lifelogging that we’ve seen so far. Rob Spence lost the vision in his tright eye in a shooting accident, and decided to replace it with a small camera unit, making it onto Time Magazine‘s best inventions list for 2009 (even though they’ve only had the thing working properly for a short time).

Now Spence’s eye has a wi-fi transmitter that can stream its video output to a computer; from there, it’s a short step to making Spence’s field of vision a free-to-view live feed available to anyone with an internet connection [via SlashDot]. There are some minor technical issues to iron out first, though:

The prototype in the video provides low-res images, but an authentic experience of literally seeing through someone else’s perspective. The image is somewhat jerky and overhung by huge eyelashes; a blink throws everything out of whack for a half-second.

[…]

The Eyeborg prototype in the video, the third, can only work for an hour an a half on a fully charged battery. Its transmitter is quite weak, so Spence has to hold a receiving antenna to his cheek to get a clear signal. He muses that he should build a Seven of Nine-style eyepiece to house it. He’s experimenting with a new prototype that has a stronger transmitter, other frequencies and a booster on the receiver.

It surely won’t be all that long before equivalent hardware could be slipped into a fully-functional biological eye… possibly without the knowledge or permission of the eye’s owner. Which suggests that the tin-foil bonnet brigade will upgrade their fears of surveillance through compromised cell phones to a fear of covertly-implanted audio and video capture devices… hey, it could happen, man*.

[ * Though this assumes, as do most such paranoid conspiracy theories, a level of competence, clandestine secrecy and forward planning of which most nation-state governments seem utterly incapable. I wouldn’t credit the UK government with the ability to successfully tap a barrel of beer, let alone my eyesight… and if they did somehow pull it off, they’d only go and leave the footage on the back seat of a bus. ]


He’s got a TV eye on you

Paul Raven @ 11-03-2009

Have you heard about the one-eyed guy who’s been building a surveillance camera into his vacant eye-socket? No, it’s not a B-list first-wave cyberpunk story, it’s actually for real:

The eye will include a 1.5mm CMOS camera, an RF transmitter “smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser” and a lithium-polymer battery. Footage will probably be sent to recording equipment in a rucksack, which will presumably be worn by Spence.

His aim, aside from breaking technological boundaries, is to raise awareness of the issues surrounding surveillance in our society.

Appropriately enough, there’s a video, too:

Your thoughts, please – should we be hailing this guy as a visionary? [OK, OK, I’ll get my coat.]


Bionic eye breakthrough

Tom James @ 04-03-2009

eye_closeUS company Second Sight have developed a bionic eye system that allows a man who has been blind for 30 years to see flashes of light:

He says he can now follow white lines on the road, and even sort socks, using the bionic eye, known as Argus II. It uses a camera and video processor mounted on sunglasses to send captured images wirelessly to a tiny receiver on the outside of the eye.

The Argus II is designed to help sufferers of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition.

[article form the BBC][image from Mazintosh – Fotogranada on flickr]


Eye implants in human trials

Jeremy Eades @ 02-05-2008

Researchers have gone from a 4×4 grid (16 ‘pixels’) in 2004 up to a 60-electrode version that was implanted in two men recently.  While not quite in Geordi Laforge territory, it’s a big step up from complete blindness.  After enough practice, the earlier patients were able to distinguish between eating implements at a dinner table, so it’ll be interesting to see what these guys can do.  The 3rd generation will be designed with about 600 electrodes, and they’re hoping that patients will be able to read.

A camera built into a pair of glasses connects to a processing pack that is carried or clipped onto the belt.  This then beams the image into the retina, turning on electrodes and stimulating the eye.  So far, this will only work for people who have lost vision, not for people who were born blind.

(via DailyTech)