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Science Technology

Still More Bionic Eyes 161

jeno writes "An Australian-invented 'bionic eye' device is about to begin human trials. The device consists of a silicon chip inserted into the eye, which is designed to act like a retina -- receiving images captured by a pair of glasses worn by the user."
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Still More Bionic Eyes

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  • Glasses? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Kwikymart ( 90332 )
    When can I get a Geordie LaForge Visor so I can tell when people are lying by their body temperature?
  • just wait until the FBI finds out how to pick up the signals going from the glasses to the eye.
    • From the article:
      "We broadcast data into the body using radio waves," he explained. "It's like a radio station that only has a range of 25 millimetres."

      This means that in order to pick up the signals, they would have to use some device that picks up signal within 25 millimetres of the glasses. This means that they have two choices

      1.Go to a lot of trouble to get much less than a centimeter from the person and get a 10x10 b&w image


      2.Get sorta near person, and just look with own eyes and get infinite resolution, full color image that can be instantly viewed.
    • Somewhere there must be a serious shortage of tin hats.
    • Oh, enough with the anti-Government conspiracy theories already! When will you all understand that if you have nothing to hide that there is no reason to be paranoid like this. What are you a terrorist or something?
    • just wait until the FBI finds out how to pick up the signals going from the glasses to the eye.

      Or the opposite, wait untill you can transmit to the glasses. Once the resolution is higher, imagine playing quake and really feel like you're in the game.

  • radio waves? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Awktagon ( 233360 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @08:49PM (#4138613) Homepage

    Well, I hope that radio signal is encrypted or keyed to the individual.. what if two of these folks stand right next to each other?? What if they walk near a radio transmitter, do their eyes go haywire??

    Also, how do they know that animal trials were successful??

    • Re:radio waves? (Score:2, Informative)

      From the article: Tests in animals have been successful, and the team would now like to test the device in a small group of about five people.
      • Re:radio waves? (Score:3, Informative)

        by bhsx ( 458600 )
        The question was how do we know the animal tests were successful; not whether or not they were. For example, was an other-wise blind dog able to cross a street or handle a maze without 'feeling' his way through, bumping into walls?
    • what if two of these folks stand right next to each other??

      The article says the range is about 25 millimeters. So they would have to be french kissing with their eyeballs to create this kind of problem. Sounds like a non-issue for all but the extremely kinky.
    • What if they look into each other's eyes? Will they undergo a personality exchange like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd?
    • Re:radio waves? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Scaebor ( 587064 )
      Also, how do they know that animal trials were successful??
      judging by the ultra-low resolution provided by these "eyes," the tests with animals probably consisted of something akin to providing a high-contrast, moving image (for instance a black square moving around a white field) and seeing if the animals responded to it(perhaps by moving their heads to follow the object's movement).
    • So, when you have sex you put on the glasses to your partner :-) Whole new opions..
  • The example picture shown in the article is barely recognizable. If I hadn't been shown the source image, I would NEVER been able to figure out what the output image was supposed to be...

    Oh well, its sorta like playing Atari on a B&W TV, I guess...
    • Actually, I didn't think it was too bad. Its probably a bit easier to recognise when it is moving. ie the pixels will pick up and represent different real world points, and the brain may be able to 'piece' together the parts. It is probably enough to recognise the difference between a person or a pole, and to be able to avoid it when walking down the street. Certainly not a complete replacement for vision, but its better than nothing and can only get better with time.
    • The problem is that they used a close up of face to pixelate. There so much detail and so much psychological baggage associated with faces that is pretty poor example. I would think more distant objects would be easier to distinguish especially with the proper video processing.

      These are not really replacements for the eye, just aides like a walking stick or a seeing eye-dog. Even at 100x100 the patient would still be legally blind and have no real peripheral vision.
      • Even at 100x100 the patient would still be legally blind and have no real peripheral vision.

        Which doesn't negate it's value. If you are legally blind, then any improvement in your vision is valuable, even if it still leaves you legally blind.

    • by OzRoy ( 602691 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @09:36PM (#4138789)
      This would still be a huge improvement over total blindness.

      You also have to remember that the brain is extremely flexable and it will be able to learn to recognise shapes even at this low resolution. You would learn to cope very well. You just wouldn't be able to read probably.

      You are used to seeing things at a normal human resolution. Imagine you are a hawk with the ability to see a mouse 100 meters below you. You are then shown human eyesite. You wouldn't be able to recognise anything either. But you would adapt.
  • by Longinus ( 601448 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @08:54PM (#4138634) Homepage
    Just imagine if your bionic eyes get hacked and you spend 24/7 looking a banner ad burned into your silicon retina.
  • Something like this, if it works, is awesome! To lose your sight, and then regain it? Just like the VISA commercial, priceless!

    The use of interfacing devices to intercept neural signals from the brain is incredible! It has already been done (to an extent) aurally. Rush Limbaugh totally lost his hearing, yet benefitted from an implant (cochlear).

    As to what it could be, and where it could go? Who cares? If I was on the receiving end, I sure wouldn't be paying too much attention to the options!

    I would just be looking at my family and being thankful for the chance to do it!
  • How many FPS ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vertigo01 ( 243919 ) <nhume@@@myrealbox...com> on Sunday August 25, 2002 @08:59PM (#4138655)
    The article fails to mention how many frames per second (if that's the appropriate term) this technology would deliver... even 10x10 pixels would be helpful if delivered at 30 - 40 FPS, but almost worse than useless if delivered at 2 FPS...

    • Re:How many FPS ? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      good question

      Also, I have read in the recent past that the arguments over what exactly was the average framerate of eyesight was offtopic simply because unlike CRT's the eye sees in a very non-symmetric way sorta like a non-horizontal interlacing. The 'frame rate' is both an average of what is sent and another average of what is processed. Considering that the majority of eye site is actually processed as pattern recognition and memory, then it could be argued without knowing for certain that said pattern recognition is both a curse and a blessing. (curse for how it can cause us to see things wrong, as well as it most likely 'slows' down the processing and wavelength range interpretation)

    • Re:How many FPS ? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Scott Baio ( 549373 )
      NTSC television broadcasts are at 30 fps, whereas most motion pictures are filmed and shown at 16 fps. This is why many videos made from filmed movies actually contain the same content on almost every pair of frames. Broadcasts that were originally shot on video (like, for instance, "Charles in Charge"), contain original content on all 30 frames each second.

      It's quite a bargain to buy videos and DVDs of you favorite old TV shows, like "Happy Days," and "Joanie Loves Chachi," considering that you get two episodes per tape, with all those frames of unique content for a little less than you'd pay for a theatrical movie released to video.

      • Actually, motion pictures are shot at 24fps, not the 16fps as you stated. If movies were shot at 16fps, the flicker from the projectors would drive you insane. Also, NTSC video signals (i.e., standard U.S. TV broadcasts) are interlaced, providing 60 fields per second (a field is a half-frame, composed of every other line). A projector like in the movies is non-interlaced, meaning it displays a full frame at a time. The advantage to an interlaced signal is that they are perceived to be much smoother in terms of motion, at the cost of signal precision.

        My guess is that this system runs ~10fps, but because you are directly stimulating the retina over a broad area (10x10 pixels for the entire image, so the individual pixels are made of relatively large areas of retina compared to standard vision), most likely it wouldn't matter too much. These people probably are just happy they get to see again after being blind thier whole lives; I don't think you will get many complaints that the image is not optimal. It is not likely that someone will brag, "Hey, my retina chip can render Quake III at 10fps!"
      • Most motion pictures are filmed at 24 fps

        The projector in the cinema flashes every frame twice, for an illusion of 48fps

        Some newer projects flash 3 times for 72 frames per second.

        When film content is digitized and transferred to DVD it is typically slowed to 23.976 fps which can be trivial frame doubled up to 30/1.001 fps (which is the true NTSC rate). For PAL they just speed it up a few percent to 25% in most cases.
    • It probably doesn't work that way at all (as frames). Your eyes certainly don't.

    • Picky, picky. I bet totally blind people would prefer 2 FPS over 0 FPS...

  • how good the pr0n is at 10x10.

    Currently the technology is only able to transmit a 10 x 10 pixel image
  • by instinctdesign ( 534196 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @09:00PM (#4138661) Homepage
    The other bionic eye alluded to in the title is this article from Wired [wired.com] and its accompanying Slashdot post [slashdot.org]. Excellent read if you missed it.

    (And no, I don't need the karma, its stuck on... "yahoo, you're not 100% useless 'round here" or something...) :P
  • by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @09:08PM (#4138694) Journal

    Speech for the Deaf [slashdot.org], Sight for the Blind [slashdot.org], now all we need is Sex for the Ugly [kuro5hin.org] and I'll be all set.

  • A blind man could hook those bionic eyes up to one of those Sony Glasstron sunglass-tv units playing some Spice Channel ;-)
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @09:28PM (#4138758)
    Manufacturers clamor for market dominance in the bionic eye market, and come up with a hodgepodge of several dozen incompatible technologies. The Justice Department demands the ability to remotely observe what people are looking at, and pressures manufacturers to secretly include key escrow technologies in their circuitry. Copyright-holding corporations realize that the junction between the optic nerve and the CCD chip is ripe for targeting, since you can effectively close off the "analog hole" by sticking an agent in there that enforces copyrights on all visual images passing through. They lobby intensively and as a result the government steps in and mandates that within X years all vision should be digital and incorporate some approved form of copy-protection. This is hailed by the corporate press as a "victory for the consumer" because of the expected abundance of pay-per-see content, even though the early adopters get struck blind by the mandated copy protection- making their eyes worthless, although they are still prized by a small minority for their ability to boot up free operating systems.

    Manufacturers continue to trip over each other in their efforts to corner the market, and come up with even more incompatible formats. Consumers who purchase the systems find that the left eye from manufacturer X (about to go out of business) and right eye from manufacturer Y (about to go out of business) both want to be in charge of what you're looking at. Getting different components to cooperate is next to impossible. When one eye breaks, you have to get them both replaced because everything is incompatible with everything else and every model is discontinued or obsoleted as soon as it comes out. People start to write scathing reviews about how the industry and Congress both need to get their act together.

    Meanwhile, consumers look at this fiasco and rightly conclude that their eyes are working fine, and that there is no reason to throw them out.
  • by Kizzle ( 555439 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @09:32PM (#4138774)
    Damn now I have to get a fcc license for my eyes.
  • brain tech (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sstory ( 538486 )
    the real story here is the experience and technology the eye problem will give neurology. Interacting with the eye and vision structures of the brain is the easiest way to get a foothold in neuro-cybernetics, and such problems are widespread enough to provide researchers much study.

    Maybe, in the end, giving machines human-quality visual capabiliy will be a result of using machines to return the same to impaired humans.

  • Of course, if you're relying on technology for your sight, you run the serious risk of going blind because of the EMP if you're beside a nuclear bomb when it goes off.
  • well, call me weird but the image doesnt seem all that great to me. sure, its better than nothing, but its absolutely nothing.
    i doubt it that this 10x10 range will be any good. the idea is pretty good thought and with proper R&D it can develop to someting helpful ...
  • A question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brandonsr ( 550431 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @09:53PM (#4138841) Homepage
    Ok, this is a serious question so don't mod me down.

    Would it be possible, with this new eye, for colorblind people to see color? Or is this still more along the lines of gene therapy.
    • If the technology got super duper duper duper better and you could have full vision with color than yes but don't look for it happening soon.
    • For an adult colorblind his entire life, would the visual cortex even be capable of seeing color or would it be like an adult who has been blind his entire life suddenly being able to see? In the case of the blind person, he would be incapable of seeing well because of the lack of development in the unused portions of the brain that handle sight.
    • Unfortaintly, Sight isn't that cool if you haven't had it in a long while. Cornia transplant paitents usually end up commiting suicide...

      Basically, the person has use a cain in his life for so long, they cannot function with just eyesight. There are classes to use a cain, but there isn't really a support group to help people who are trying to get off the cain.

      They might not be able to judge depth perception, which is a pretty important for movement :-P

      And plus, the world isn't a great place to look at if your not use to it. Peeling paint, ugly people, dead grass, people being mean to eachother. So depression is something that is common in people who get this transplant....

      of course, if you've just lost your eyesight in an accident, then getting new eyesight will be great. or at least better than learning brail :-P
    • Maybe. But until the implant technology becomes radically better, you don't want it. Having red/green blind "natural" vision beats the living crap out of having kind-of-working artificial vision. For now, it has nowhere near the dynamic range or ability to re-adjust on the fly of the real thing. As I recall, red-green blindness is caused by simply not having the right kind of cells in your retina. Or you have them, but they're sensitive to wrong wavelengths. So an artificial retina should fix it, but it's a different story whether your brain could process the new information unless the device was installed at birth.

      Ditto for hearing implants. As long as you have any hearing of your own, it's better to make do with hearing aid. The technology's just not mature enough, not yet.
    • Colourblind people actually do see colour! There's a few people who can't see any colour at all - this is achromatopia (Oliver Sacks has a book on this, Island of the Colorblind, I think). That's rare. The problem normally called colour blindness in English (Daltonism in some other languages) is more of a failure to match colours, than to distinguish them. As an example - in the UK we have green traffic lights that are what I would think of as "blue-green", which I find very easy to distinguish from the amber and red lights. In Belgium, they often use "red-green" for the green lights, which I find harder to distinguish. I can't see any similarity between the two greens, and I have to learn to call them the same colour - on the other hand, I can see a distinction in shade between the "red-green" and red traffic lights, but they aren't something I would naturally group separately.
      • Actually, Achromatopsia is what I have. Full Blown, completely colorblind. Which is the genetic disorder described in Island of the Colorblind. But, I also have the sensitivity to light, which is sometimes overlooked by people reading the book. And is unfortunately a much bigger problem than being completely colorblind.
  • by Kotukunui ( 410332 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @09:53PM (#4138843)
    Just as long as the bionic eye doesn't make that "do-doo-do-doot" funny noise everytime you use it. That would drive me nuts.
  • Now What they need is a camera small enough to fit in your Iris. Get rid of that extra radio equipment since the chip can connect directly to the camera. Ad some cool night vision and Infared capabilities, maybe zoom. Then make it comparably priced as laser treatment. Only then I will get surgery for my myopia.
  • What's in the freakin' water down under!?
  • Wait'll the RIAA gets a-hold o' this!

    Someone gives you a taped copy of Friends and you can't see it...
  • Hey the optic nerve doesn't exactly accept RS-232 or any of the IEEE standards so how did the researchers figure out how and what signals should be provided as input to the optic nerve and how the interface architecture was suppose to even look like? Is the interface between the optic nerve and a healthy retina( with the rods and cones as sensors) no different than just any other electrical circuit ?

  • Interesting (Score:1, Informative)

    by mgeneral ( 512297 )
    Above everything else, the advancements science is making on vision is amazing. However poor that 10x10 image is, in time will get better. Personally, I was more intrigued by this story:
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.09/vision.ht ml [wired.com]
    where the scientist is actually inserting probes in the brain to stimulate the nuerons that produce the image we need to see with. It sounds as though he is having better success, assuming that the patient was able to drive a car (albeit limited) after the operation. That 10x10 image doesn't leave me feeling that the patient could get in a car and drive, much less distinguish what he's looking at.

    • The most important difference between that article and this one is that this approach uses the artificial retina artifact instead of the big setup in that other technique. I think this would allow higher miniaturization and eventually lead to the integration of the camera and processing equipment in a single implant (much easier to "install" than the neural implant).


  • I seem to remember reading something like this in a story once. The main character was blind, and underwent surgery (didn't get into many details) that gave him back sight. He had never seen anything before, and in the end went insane from all the colors etc. etc. and gauged his eyes out. Things that he had known from touch & sound weren't what he imagined...

    Just something to think about.

  • I need this!
  • by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Monday August 26, 2002 @12:22AM (#4139305) Homepage

    Reminds me of Babylon 5 when G'Kar has his bionic eye, especially when he can take it out and still see from it.

    (Sheriden and Delenn - honeymoon night)

    Londo: (something along the lines of) It almost makes you wish you could peek in and see what they are doing.

    (G'Kar looks distracted)

    Londo: G'Kar, where is the prosthetic eye that Dr. Franklin made for you?

    (G'kar is smiling)

    (Scene changes to show the eye on a table looking towards the honeymoon bed)

  • Optobionics [optobionics.com] has been around for a while and have been implanting silicon chips on the back of the eye on human patients. The patients were blinded by retinitis pigmentosa.

    The chip interfaces directly with the the remaining cells in the retina so there's no need for external glasses or receivers. Although the person with the implant cannot perceive color, the resolution is good enough to distinguish shapes. The chip itself is has an array of photodiodes with a technology similar to solar cells.

  • This is truly amazing! However, I think we should be pushing for similar technologies that would allow people with normal vision to have signals fed directly to the visual system. This is one of the holy grails of virtual reality, but who really wants to trade their otherwise perfect eyesight just to have the equipment necessary for truly immersive VR?

    Of course, I'd be happy if I could afford an Apple Cinema HD display....

  • Better Technology (Score:2, Informative)

    by mactom ( 515670 )

    We (IMS-CHIPS) work on something similar. But in our case, the pixels/photodiodes are included on the chip, which is implanted. No need for a separate camera. Very simple and elegant.

    Have a look:

  • as i was scrolling along, i saw a show in discovery channel about the eye.

    there is this new very simple device, that is still under clinical testing that allows the replacement of the retina with the use of an organic material.

    no chips!

    maybe someone could elaborate on this. :)
  • I wonder.. in the future, will bionic eyes ever go beyond giving sight to the blind? If these bionic eyes actually worked, why wouldn't the military want to get them, and modify them and further their purposes to include heat detection, range finding, night vision, etc, sort of like the eye of a Terminator?
  • CNN is reporting on the same story [cnn.com], only they have the tagline that "Blind people are driving the bionic-eye market"

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury