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Medicine Science

Bionic Eye Patient Tests Planned For 2013 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the gentlemen-we-can-rebuild-him dept.
angry tapir writes "Australian researchers are getting ready to test a bionic eye on patients in 2013. The eye consists of 98 electrodes that stimulate nerve cells in the retina, which is a tissue lining the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses necessary for sight, and allow users to better differentiate between light and dark. With the bionic eye, images taken by a camera are processed in an external unit, such as a smartphone, then relayed to the implant's chip. This stimulates the retina by sending electric signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they are decoded as vision."
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Bionic Eye Patient Tests Planned For 2013

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  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:07AM (#39819101)

    ...right down the tubes if your bionic eye suddenly decides to start humming Bjork tunes and your Google phone joins in...

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:16AM (#39819159)
    Please, don't quote the line. You know the one. The one with three comparatives. It's too predictable.
    • by mblase (200735)

      Please, don't quote the line. You know the one. The one with three comparatives. It's too predictable.

      We can requote it. We have the keyboards.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I guess you don't mean this one : Citius. altius, fortius.

      I wonder if, down the line, people with bionic eyes will be allowed into regular olympics.

      They could destroy the competition at shooting targets, or any sports actually (with the help of augmented reality).

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Not sure about competitive shooting at that level, but at smaller events I know of people using contacts and such to ensure they have superhuman vision at the distance they will be shooting. Basically just making sure they get the maximum amount of correction when at the optometrist. This must aid them against unaided shooters who may have 20/40 vision and not even know it.

      • I wonder if they would be allowed to go into movie theaters.
    • by Hillgiant (916436)

      Peace is War
      Love is Hate
      Freedom is Slavery

      Or did you have a different three in mind?

  • by DrYak (748999) on Friday April 27, 2012 @08:46AM (#39819355) Homepage

    One of the challenges I see is that the optical nerve, isn't really a peripheral nerve (connecting peripheral sensors to the central nervous system), but something connecting 2 parts of the central nervous system. Beside other peculiarities stemming from this, it has a result which makes the bionic eye much more complicated than other organ replacements:
    The signal is already processed. Light get detected in the deeper layer of the retina (where the cones and rods lives), transmitted to the upper layer (nerves cells doing this transmission plays the same role as peripheral nerves) and gets processed in the upper layer.
    The optical nerve doesn't carry simply levels detected from the cones and rods, instead it carry some shape information (boundary detection done by comparing signals from neighbouring groups of cones and rods) and colour contrast information (done by comparing the signal of a small group of cones with surrounding cones). (The same kind of pre-processing going into the spine or the crianial nerve's nuclei).

    A bionic eye will need to similarly pre-process the image, and then manage to send the correct output to the correct type of fiber.
    On the other hand, the various later stages of the visual pathway in the brain do further processing on the signal (line detection, shape detection, motion detection, etc...), so the brain might manage to make something useful out of the signal even if it isn't optimal at that stage.

    I wonder how functional and useful the resulting perceived image would be for the patient. Well, probably better than nothing, but still...

    • They are interfacing to the retina. With appropriate interfacing, you might be able to keep all that processing capability intact. You'd just need a way to stimulate the photoreceptor cells and nothing else. Like, say, a sufficiently high resolution biocompatible OLED display.* Not much good against neural damage, but great if the fault is in the optical part of the eye. There's no reason it couldn't work, just engineering challenges to overcome.

      * A literal retinal display. May be trademark issues.
    • by jellie (949898)

      From the lab's website, it appears that this wide-angle bionic eye has only 98 electrodes. I believe each electrode can only stimulate one photoreceptor, creating a "phosphene" (which is essentially a single point of light). With 98 electrodes, you can have a grid of up to 98 phosphenes to give a very primitive description of what you see. This research group also has a high-acuity implant with 1024 electrodes for better quality.

      As to your original comment, I don't know but I imagine that stimulating any br

    • I suspect this is related (at least conceptually, it appears to be a different group): http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/110031-a-bionic-prosthetic-eye-that-speaks-the-language-of-your-brain [extremetech.com]
    • by JustNiz (692889)

      I'm thinking that the project has a large expectation that the brain will also significantly adapt and learn to translate/process the incoming info.

      The brain almost certainly wont be receiving info from the bionic eye thats even close to the same as a functioning eye would send given the same stimulus.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      The signal is already processed. Light get detected in the deeper layer of the retina (where the cones and rods lives), transmitted to the upper layer (nerves cells doing this transmission plays the same role as peripheral nerves) and gets processed in the upper layer.

      That's new to me, can you give a citation where I can learn more detail about this? It goes against my own experience, what I learned in a physics class, and whay my retina surgeon said.

      In college I took a physics class concerning light and op

      • That's new to me, can you give a citation where I can learn more detail about this?

        Most of the Neurophysiology books I've read during my medial studies. I'll have to pick up a specific reference.
        Meanwhile Wikipedia isn't that bad [wikipedia.org] and has some explanation of how the signals are processed.

        In college I took a physics class concerning light and optics, and the professor said that seeing isn't a function of the eye, but of the brain. Perhaps it was a matter of his being a physicist and not a biologist.

        It's a good enough approximation for a light & optics course.
        It's just that once you go into the tiny details, you might need to be more precise.
        "seeing isn't a function of the eye, but of the brain."
        is somewhat correct, except that the first steps of this brain processing is already taking place in so

  • I hope they will have a nice visor that goes over my bionic eyes, that lets me see infrared, warp core plasma, and all sorts of exotic radiation. I promise to sing the "Reading Rainbow" song while wearing it.
  • by HJED (1304957) on Friday April 27, 2012 @09:31AM (#39819915)

    If it is being processed on an external device it is likely that the camera will not be in the eye (at least at first), and it appears that any camera is supported which leads to some interesting possibilities (streaming TV or the internet direct to your optic nerve anyone?) and also some interesting hacking opportunities. To bad that installing something like this would require you to lose an eye however it could lead the way to space opera style cyborgs.

    I assume that 98 electrodes means a resolution similar to 98 pixels so it sadly wouldn't provide a very good replacement, however this will probably improve in time as historically eye problems have attracted strong support and funding. It would also not work very well for people with damaged optic nerves and would probably require the removal of a natural eye if the patient has one.

  • Can someone explain how sending signals to the brain stimulates the retina? Do they bounce and come back out or something?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Replacing "by" with a comma in the last sentence clarifies things:

      This stimulates the retina, sending electric signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they are decoded as vision.

  • I seem to recall reading an article about this 10-15 years ago, in which they had an 8x8 array of sensors that were directly stimulating areas in the visual cortext. Fully blind patients were able to correctly identify a number of shapes.

    However, if I recall correctly, the nerves' responsiveness to the unnatural direct electrical stimulation wore off quite quickly, and the assessment at the end was that the electrical/neuronal coupling was going to be the main problem to overcome.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do they get to call this a "Retina Display" then?

  • Just think of the possibilities when the eye is given the ability to see beyond the optical wavelengths.

    • or the ability to plug in to thing like screens telescopes microscopes security systems. i can imagine all sorts of extension of this tech.
      air traffic controllers able to plug into a radar system. or hook up a sonar system and have 360 degree detection?

  • I guess instead of the 6 million dollar man, it would probably be more like the 6 billion dollar man, no?

  • This appears to be the company doing the research, they're based in Victoria but the UNSW logo appears at the end of the video:
    http://bionicvision.org.au/eye [bionicvision.org.au]
    (They also say they're on track for starting human tests in 2013)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They should let Stevie Wonder be the first guy to get a shot at this shit, can't we give Stevie just a peek? Wrote songs in the key of love, just a quick peek?

  • I wonder what happened to the Dobelle Eye... same style but wired directly into the visual cortex: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.09/vision_pr.html [wired.com]

  • I'd hold out for the IXian model.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Siri, what am I looking at?

Parts that positively cannot be assembled in improper order will be.

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