New bionic eyes beam pictures right into your brain
Australian researchers from Monash University are developing new "bionic eyes" that don't rely on the organic ocular system to restore sight to the blind. Rather than using a retinal implant that stimulates the optic nerves within the eye, the new device essentially amounts to a pair of glasses with a mounted camera that is connected directly to the brain. A blind Australian is scheduled to be the first to receive the new device next year.
The system requires implanting 11 small tiles into parts of the brain that receive and process signals related to vision. Each tile will contain 43 electrodes that can stimulate the brain with electrical signals to create dots of light similar to pixels, adding up to a total of just under 500 pixels of vision. The end result won't be anything like the 1 to 2 million pixels a human eye can produce, but it could restore a semblance of vision to people whose retinas have been damaged beyond use.
Images that the camera receives are first routed through a digital processor on the side of the glasses. The processor breaks down the image and extracts the relevant information before wirelessly transmitting signals to the brain tiles. The result should be a crude image, which lead researcher Arthur Lowery compares to 1920s images produced by John Baird's "televisor".
Who knows? Maybe the technology can be improved to the point where connecting a camera directly to your brain will produce better sight than the human eye. Successfully bypassing the retina to send images to the brain opens up some exciting possibilities.