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Biotech Medicine

DoE-Sponsored Project Readies Human Trial For Artificial Retinas 82

Posted by timothy
from the so-the-government-can-tell-you-what-you-see dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'The blind will see again,' could be the motto of the Artificial Retina Project, which is getting ready to implant a 60-pixel artificial retina chip into 10 blind patients later this year. 60-pixels doesn't sound like much, but the 1st gen artificial retina brought tears to the eyes of its six recipients, who claim they can now count large objects with just 16-pixels. If all goes well, a 200-pixel retina will be ready in three years; the chip used is of a 1.2-micron CMOS process, with both power and video supplied wirelessly." (And this is sponsored by the Department of Energy for what reason?)
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DoE-Sponsored Project Readies Human Trial For Artificial Retinas

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  • by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Thursday June 26, 2008 @02:42PM (#23955041) Homepage Journal
    "...wirelessly transmits images to a belt pack containing a microprocessor that processes the video signal" In other news, the encryption scheme for these devices was broken. The only side effect is the blind with these implants have reported seeing a smiley face with the words, "I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes" circling around the face.
    • Re:In other news, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Amouth (879122) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @02:47PM (#23955195)

      +1 for perfect refrence

      i was thinking the same thing when i read that

      • Please note that replying voids your modpoints. :)
        • by Amouth (879122)

          i know - i just don't have any mod points.. so i give the best version of them i had at the time

          • > 60-pixels doesn't sound like much, but the 1st gen artificial retina brought
            > tears to the eyes of its six recipients, who claim they can now count large
            > objects with just 16-pixels. If all goes well, a 200-pixel retina will be
            > ready in three years

            Like all the new technologies, it'll be rapidly driven by pr0n!

      • by EdIII (1114411) *

        Ummm, you misspelled the word reference. It has 4 e's in it :P

        Hey, look everybody a Spelling Nazi that had the balls to post non-anonymously! :)

        BTW: I was actually thinking of a blind guy sitting on a bench grabbing the air in front of him with a goofy smile on his face.

        • by Bloater (12932)

          Isn't "anonymously" already a negation composed as an- (without) onymus (name, latin from greek "onoma") -ly (having the qualities of).

          So the negation would be "onymously".

          How's that for language trolling :)

          Actually, English is supposed to be a fun language (since modern leyman's English is mostly created by poets), so ananonymously would also be correct as was your non-anonmyously :) I'm just playing with ya.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by dunnius (1298159)
        Yeah, I was laughing, man!
    • If you do not see the possible good (crazy awesome!) implications of this, then you are, indeed, blind to progress.

  • Your retina are belong to us.
  • by kiehlster (844523) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @02:53PM (#23955325) Homepage
    This is nearing the equivalent of Jordi LaForge's visor. In fact, we could probably create a cheap version of it with a little product design. From what I saw of the 1st-gen, it makes the patient look like a total geek with a web cam over their eye. Not much better than a kid wearing a gauze eye-patch. Even MIT's newer wearable computer enthusiasts are more attractive. But to really match sci-fi, we need to approach the idea of detaching the eye and replacing it with a fully functional robotic implant. At least we're seeing some progress. It's amazing how far it is in comparison to paralysis treatment.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @02:58PM (#23955463) Homepage

      Even MIT's newer wearable computer enthusiasts are more attractive.

      Why on earth would anyone want to wear a computer enthusiast? Is this some extreme form of on-demand tech support? Also, I'm highly skeptical of the claim that computer enthusiasts coming out of MIT, no matter how new, are attractive.

    • by neokushan (932374) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:05PM (#23955625)

      I don't care how geeky I look, if I lose my eyesight I'll wear whatever is required to see again.

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:39PM (#23956443) Homepage

        I don't care how geeky I look, if I lose my eyesight I'll wear whatever is required to see again.

        On a serious note, I completely agree, yet at the same time would be very leery of doing so. The main reason? Upgrade paths. They've got a 60-pixel retina they're trying now. Much better than being blind, but much worse than the next gen which will have 4,000 pixels, then there'll be a 64k pixel one, and then the multi-megapixel eyes after that. And then they'll come out with one that not only approximates full human vision, but gives you Geordi LaForge-like super-vision as well. But alas, I can't get that one, because the upgrade to the 64k pixel eye required splicing directly into my optic nerve and now they don't have enough to work with.

        So basically I wouldn't be completely comfortable with it until it reached the nearly-normal stage (and I'll just live without the super-vision upgrade), but realistically, it very well may not be at that point when I actually need it. This would make an otherwise no-brainer (see vs not see) a lot tougher.

        Not that I'm complaining. This is fantastic news.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by 42forty-two42 (532340)
          You could always do one eye at a time :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TooMuchToDo (882796)
          Honestly, depending on the tech available at the time, I would be glad to donate one of my good eyes to someone wealthier than I in exchange for enough cash to purchase an eye that could see at multiple wavelengths. Bonus points if I can wirelessly transmit the output from the eye to hardware and it can run off the glucose in my body.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by moosesocks (264553)

          If you lose your eyesight, the "vision centers" in your brain will begin to atrophy, and you'll lose the mental capacity to process images.

          Best to "exercise" those areas as much as possible. Once those nerves die, they're gone for good. Figure out how to grow those back, and you'll nearly have achieved the holy grail of medicine.

        • So basically I wouldn't be completely comfortable with it until it reached the nearly-normal stage (and I'll just live without the super-vision upgrade).

          Until you live without vision, I think it's difficult to state how you'd really feel about that.
          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            No, it's not difficult at all to say that I would not be completely comfortable with a partial eye replacement, and that it would be a difficult decision to commit to any particular type of implant.

          • by Nikker (749551) *
            it is a difficult decision but now that you know about this upgrade path concept would the question is do you want these guys to fuck with your eye sight until it is the way you want it or get one and leave the carrot alone until it gets perfect?

            If you start going for that carrot they are only going to let you have a taste of it anyway, never the whole thing.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          I doubt there's enough optic nerve to process a multi megapixel image. The eye works by sweeping a relatively small sensitive area over the scene, not by taking it all in at full resolution at once. A few thousand closely spaced pixels may well be pretty close to "normal."

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Well, the image sensor itself would have to have millions and millions of pixels, just like our eyes have millions and millions of receptors. However what you're saying implies is that it may be possible to have a connector to the optic nerve capable of saturating its bandwidth, and then you could plug in "eyes" of various resolution with the data time multiplexed.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You really think it would be any more geeky than the bluetooth phones people wear on their ears all the time?

    • by hairyfeet (841228)
      Which is why it is being sponsored by DoE. Imagine the battlefield of tomorrow,where our soldiers can rule the theatre because their advanced optics allow them to see at night,see in heat,and lets them pick off their enemies at 500 yards as easily as a soldier can do at 20 today,thanks to the advanced micro circuitry connected to those optics automatically adjusting for wind speed,elevation,etc. While I know that the chip being talked about won't do anything like that,these are the baby steps along that roa
  • DOE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dietlein (191439) <(dietlein) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday June 26, 2008 @02:54PM (#23955351)

    And this is sponsored by the Department of Energy for what reason?

    For the same reason the Department of Commerce is responsible for our atomic clocks?

    Seriously though, the DOC, DOE, etc., each have a variety of national labs, each of which have many areas of research. I'd suppose the DOE's expertise in high-reliability sensors (for light and all other wavelengths of radiation) is one reason why they mesh well with this project.
    • by Alsee (515537)

      And this is sponsored by the Department of Energy for what reason?

      Well duhhhhh....
      The Slashdot blurb says with both power and video supplied wirelessly.
      It's high technomalogical beaming-energy-through-space thingymadoodle.

      -

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mr. Slippery (47854)

      For the same reason the Department of Commerce is responsible for our atomic clocks?

      Standard weights and measures are vital for commerce. It's logical that the Department of Commerce is responsible for our official measurements of time.

    • And this is sponsored by the Department of Energy for what reason?

      For the same reason the Department of Commerce is responsible for our atomic clocks?

      Actually, NIST takes care of all of that stuff.

      Even the staunchest small-government conservative should be able to readily admit that a country as large as the US needs an organization like NIST to keep weights and measures standardized.

      As far as I know, they do a pretty good job of it too.

      (Oh, and lots of research falls under the DoE, because they have lots of money, due to the fact that their core mission is quite important, and because they're the most "famous" of the federally-funded science agencies, w

  • power is transmitted wirelessly? I've been thinking about how that would work for years, and now I finally hear of it actually being implemented. Imagine the other uses this technology will have, people walking around with supervision, paparazzi that don't need cameras, millions of people secretly recording themselves having sex... brb buying EyePorn.com
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:03PM (#23955569) Homepage
    I wish this had been developed in time for Dan Alderson [wikipedia.org] to have gotten one. The last two years he was at JPL, I was his "seeing eye person" because diabetic retinopathy had ruined his vision. Jerry Pournelle [jerrypournelle.com] once dedicated a book to him, calling him "the sane genius." Among other things, Dan wrote the navigation software that was used by Project Voyager, and he was still doing things that most programmers would have sworn were impossible when his health failed completely and he was forced to retire.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Stranger: So you worked at JPL?
      You: Yes.
      Stranger: What did you do there?
      You: I was a seeing eye dog...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        You: I was a seeing eye dog...


        No! I was a seeing eye person! Dan didn't need me to lead him around, he still had enough sight for that. He needed me to read monitors, type, and do other things that needed sharp sight.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Doesn't exactly seem like the most glamorous lab job, but the potential for learning seems amazing.

          "So, what did you do after college?

          "I personally helped a genius for two years."

          Heck, even if he told you to not ask questions, you could probably absorb a surprising amount just being close by.

          • Heck, even if he told you to not ask questions, you could probably absorb a surprising amount just being close by.

            Dan would never have done that. He was always willing to explain, and even take suggestions. And yes, I did learn a lot about good programming from him. We were working on a subroutine package for others to use. In it, he used a number of functions and subroutines he created with five or six arguments, and never had trouble keeping them in the right order. This is because he had a patter

  • Retinitis Pigmentosa (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Jizzbug (101250)

    I may have inherited a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa. I am color blind to certain shades of red & green (they look brown or orange or multiple shades of red/green/brown), which can be an indicator of inheritance of the retinal degenerative disorder. I may need bionic eyes (with eye beams, hopefully) when I'm 40 to 60 years old.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by m-kirkcaldie (979966)
      Unless it has developed recently, that sounds more like standard red-green colour blindness - which is a genetic defect and not a progressive degeneration.
      • by Jizzbug (101250)

        A little late, I know, but just to be clear: my grandfather has RP as does his brother, so I may inherit the gene through my mother (color blindness is a marker for also having the genetic defect if it runs in your family [both grandpa and great uncle were color blind before developing RP, my great uncle actually started going blind in his 20s, my grandpa's eyes degenerated much later in life]).

        • Thanks for the info - I hope it doesn't turn out to be RP in your case, but if it does, I hope the prostheses are ready soon.
  • Why the DOE? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:13PM (#23955777) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps because the DOE has a dedicated Office of Science, of which the Office of Biological & Environmental Research is a member? Gosh, that was hard to pick out of the very first link you posted.
    Or, in a more snide retort: (And this is sponsored by the Department of Energy for what reason?)
    Because the US Department of Fucked Up Eyeballs was out to lunch the day of the planning meeting.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by croftj (2359)

      You're a troll! So tell me why is the DOE sponsoring this? Why does every agency in our government have to do things in the areas where there are already government agencies which should be doing it.

      To me it's more like a volley ball game where all of the players are to busy playing their team members positions to mind their own position.

      I can't imagine that the DOE doesn't have enough Energy related issues at hand to keep them plenty busy w/o loosing focus on the blind (pun only half intended).

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:13PM (#23955793) Homepage Journal

    Forgive me for asking, but even simple webcams are now 0.3 megapixels... so why are these artificial retinas so low on the pixel count?

    • Oh I don't know, maybe cause its NEW technology? Where attaching anything to your retina is still considered a dark art unheard of? Sure we can manipulate the lens, but actually attaching a device and sending signals through is very ground breaking IMO.
    • its 16 neural brain connections, not necessarily 16 pixel camera.

    • by PieSquared (867490) <isosceles2006 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:27PM (#23956181)

      My guess is because of the difficulty in connecting 300,000+ (how exactly is color encoded for the brain?) wires/electrodes to the optical nerve (or directly to the brain?) accurately in a confined space.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kiehlster (844523)

        because of the difficulty in connecting 300,000+ (how exactly is color encoded for the brain?) wires/electrodes to the optical nerve
        That is precisely the reason, but I wonder why they don't mix in some stem cell research with their bio-informatics to essentially grow the connections in place. We can grow flesh, so it might be possible to manipulate it to bond with the electrodes. Perhaps the electrodes are just too big to fit a small fortune in the eye.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by icegreentea (974342)
          Maybe it's because they want to have a working model NOW and not in 10/20 years. I believe what you're describing is what we call feature creep. Better to get the core idea down first. As for why its only 60 pixels. Part of it certainly is power and size. They had enough trouble fitting 60 pixels worth of sensors and processing and power in. Getting more in is going to be hard.
          • Excellent point. Once the bugs are worked out, I look forward to higher resolution/multiple wavelength retina replacements, with the connections to the brain handled by some sort of self-organizing interface (so we don't have to try to connect the interface to the brain ourselves).
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by badboy_tw2002 (524611)

          You know, it would be really great if /. armchair scientists were really in an armchair watching science reports like it was a football game. Then you could see how ridiculous you're being:

          Announcer: Dr. Hausinsphincter steps back, takes the chip, and inserts it into the eye of the patient.

          Announcer #2: That's an equivalent 60 pixel chip I believe he's trying there Bob. /. Know It All: 60 pixels! Awww what? Come on Hausinsphincter grow a pair! That's fucking rediculous! Get some of those stem cell's in

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Alsee (515537)

        My guess is because of the difficulty in connecting 300,000+ (how exactly is color encoded for the brain?) wires/electrodes to the optical nerve (or directly to the brain?) accurately in a confined space.

        Parallel cables suxorz!
        Firewire is da bombz!
        Apple rulzxors!

        -

  • Which DOE? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ultraexactzz (546422) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:26PM (#23956157) Journal
    And Here I am thinking it was the Department of Eyesight. Seemed rather logical, actually.
  • by Rgb465 (325668)

    (And this is sponsored by the Department of Energy for what reason?)

    Because the devices are Nuclear Powered
  • by Thelasko (1196535) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @03:51PM (#23956721) Journal

    If you go to a doctor and tell him that you're blind, they say, "Hey, why don't you get this dog to drag your blind ass around?" What kind of cure is that?
    Chris Rock

    I for one welcome our cyborg overlords!
  • by objekt (232270) on Thursday June 26, 2008 @04:11PM (#23957213) Homepage

    ...thereby causing a short circuit in their newly implanted retinas.

  • Am I missing something, or is true to say that now the only barrier to perfect (or better) vision restoration is moore's law?

    Or in other words, approximately every 18 months, artificial vision will double in quality?

    Ok, I guess the other limitation is FDA approval on each generation..

    • by denzacar (181829)

      Or in other words, approximately every 18 months, artificial vision will double in quality?

      Not quite.

      The artificial retina has an array of electrodes that stimulates optic nerve cells, sending an image to the brain's vision centers. The plasticity of the brain's vision processing capabilities enable it to adapt to the artificially generated signals.

      You get higher resolution up to a point where your brain input maxes out.
      But, what you MIGHT get as a bonus are things like infra-red vision, zoom-vision or data input.
      You are getting a piece of wiring installed in your head - why not make the most of it?

      Just think of the military applications. :D

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Why not just make use of the more efficient input you've already got? I believe we call it the "eye."

        I've already got infra-red vision, zoom vision and data input, on a high bandwidth optical link.

        • by denzacar (181829)

          I've already got infra-red vision, zoom vision and data input, on a high bandwidth optical link.

          You do? You then must be a robot from the future.
          No, I don't know where John and Sarah Connor are.

          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            My video camera (with screen) has infrared, zoom, and if I point it (or my eyeball) at a computer screen I've got data input. All transferred into my brain via optical link with my natural retina.

            What exactly do you think an infrared, zoom, etc., device would look like with an artificial retina? The only difference is how the data gets into the brain: via a natural retina evolved over a billion years to handle visual data efficiently or through some electrodes hooked up willy nilly to a part of the brain

  • Nobody mentioned Geordi La Forge yet?

  • How long until we are given the option of infravision and ultravision? It would simply be computer processing at this point, right?
  • if it locks up or crashes? via a sharp stick in the eye?

  • Darn glad I'm not blind because this would be a frustrating theme. It seems like a difficult technology scientists have been diddling with in the lab for several decades now. The really significant tidbit of this story is that they are hoping to submit the results of the generation _after_ this second generation for actual FDA approval. Finally, we can start to guesstimate a time line for this technology to make it to the patient population.

  • LAZER EYES!!!!!

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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