Every now and then you read something and are reminded that what you are living in, right now, is the future, and that it’s not all silly overpriced visors. This would be one of those times.
This implant is not a cure-all by any means. This particular bionic eye was built for people who were born with their vision but lost it due to hereditary diseases, but whose eyes could still detect light. The implant basically fills in the missing piece of translating that information in the brain, albeit imperfectly:
Visual scenes are projected naturally through the eye’s lens onto the chip under the transparent retina. The chip generates a corresponding pattern of 38 × 40 pixels, each releasing light-intensity-dependent electric stimulation pulses. Subsequently, three previously blind persons could locate bright objects on a dark table, two of whom could discern grating patterns. One of these patients was able to correctly describe and name objects like a fork or knife on a table, geometric patterns, different kinds of fruit and discern shades of grey with only 15 per cent contrast.
So it’s not great, but it’s a lot better than no vision at all.
And here’s a subject describing what using the implant in the real world is like:
To give you an idea of how life-changing this is, the first trials two years ago were so successful, one subject actually refused to let doctors remove the implant.
This won’t help people who are blind from birth, or suffering from severe eye injuries. But it’s a start, and we suspect the science will advance quickly on this one.