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First Bionic Eye Gets FDA Blessing

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.

Wireless Networking 42

coondoggie writes "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved what it says is the first bionic eye, or retinal prosthesis, that can partially restore the sight of blind individuals after surgical implantation. The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System includes a small video camera, transmitter mounted on a pair of eyeglasses, video processing unit (VPU) and an implanted artificial retina. The VPU transforms images from the video camera into electronic data that is wirelessly transmitted to the retinal prosthesis."

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Check out the view with the eye (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42907495)

The VPU makes some interesting images [youtube.com] .

Re:Check out the view with the eye (2)

Virtual_Raider (52165) | about 2 years ago | (#42907605)

Damn yoo trooll, you got me! Well played :)

Re:Check out the view with the eye (2)

Zaatxe (939368) | about 2 years ago | (#42908207)

Slashdot should have a "+1 Troll" mod for this... :-)

Re:Check out the view with the eye (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42912459)

Someone tell me what the troll is already, I'm not clicking the link at work ...

Re:Check out the view with the eye (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#42912505)

Just your standard issue Rick-Roll

Just make sure he doesn't go to McDonalds (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42907533)

Seeing as how some McDonalds employees physically assaulted Professor Steve Mann in an attempt to rip off his prosthetically-mounted digital eye glass, I take it they may also feel threatened by bionic eyes and may ban or even attempt to remove them. Sound far-fetched? Read what McDonalds did to Dr. Mann [blogspot.jp] , and decide for yourself.

Re:Just make sure he doesn't go to McDonalds (-1, Troll)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | about 2 years ago | (#42907827)

McDonalds will rip off anyone they think is a sucker. Blind or Sighted. They simply are a gigantic corporation run by psychopaths (most corporations are) and staffed by idiots who will follow the protocol laid out by the psychopaths because they value their jobs and income more than their own humanity.

Re:Just make sure he doesn't go to McDonalds (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#42912521)

Not really a problem, here. This is a retinal implant, not a hunk of plastic and metal attached to your face.

Re:Just make sure he doesn't go to McDonalds (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | about 2 years ago | (#42919201)

Are you seeing the same photos of users of this implant as I am?

Or did you read the informative article where it states: "Specifically the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System includes a small video camera, transmitter mounted on a pair of eyeglasses, video processing unit (VPU) and an implanted artificial retina."?

Brain Interface (4, Informative)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 2 years ago | (#42907615)

I hope that eventually we get to the point where full sight can be restored for all blind individuals. However, there are many reasons for blindness and this one will probably only help with those caused by problems with the by the retina (at least in the near term, long term all of this research will be tremendously valuable). It seems like the Argus II is still in the general size, shape, motion category, but even that would be a tremendous gain to someone that has lost their sight. I read this article http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/11/blind-vision-implant/ [wired.com] a couple of years ago. It talks about trying to go beyond capturing general size, shape, and motion in visual prosthetic by recoding the information to a more natural state. If the interface with the brain can be figured out, all kinds of possibilities will open up. Geordi Laforge's visor may be closer than we think.

Re:Brain Interface (4, Interesting)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | about 2 years ago | (#42907889)

I saw a University of Washington (I get the TV channels) lecture on a study of natural vision coding

They basically hooked a monkey's optic nerve into a ton of monitoring electrodes, then showed the monkey a set of images while recording. They then programmed a Neural network to replicate the exact same output as the monkey with the same input, and hooked it into blind monkeys testing against the calibration we use today in humans.

The standard calibration method is the squares test. They send a pulse to each electrode and have the subject point at the relative location on an easel where they see a flash from the activation. So for a 64 electrode system, the subject sees 64 flashes. They're then tested on shapes and sizes of objects (object recognition)

The blind monkeys were trained this method using the standard equipment and coding, (testing for grapes and dice). But when they split them into two groups, the monkeys with the neural net coding did much better after a couple of weeks after they got their coding replaced with the neuralnet input from a human.

I don't think there was a stellar control in the study, but the results are intriguing, and I think it merits further research. Perhaps with MRI mapping of how the optic nerve connects to the visual processing area, and how it changes during blindness.

Re:Brain Interface (1)

meimeiriver (1083377) | about 2 years ago | (#42909029)

A far more intriguing experiment was that of a mouse I recently read about. Basically, its artificially severed optic nerves were 'guided' to heal again (this can be done with humans too, to a certain degree). Afterwards the mouse's vision was totally garbled, though, as the wires were all crossed, as it were.

Here, however, nature applied a brilliant trick to solve the cross-wiring, fully automagically! The idea is based in a simple physics. When one of the retna's photoreceptor cells 'fires', it does not fire entirely exclusively, but other rods around it are lit up as well (be it at lesser intensity). The math behind this physical phenomenon is pretty straight-forward and predictable. So predictable even, that the mice's brain could already 'ungarble' the cross-wired signals after several weeks! Because if you light up a single rod, and other rods light up as well, but now enter the brain seemingly all across the board, but all still in diminishing intensity consistent with placement of what should have been a nice 'corona' around the main rod, then the math for 're-wiring' them back to their should-be locations is fairly simple. Re-wiring is a bit of a misnomer, actually, as technically not the nerves themselves get re-wired, but how the brain remaps the rods' signals and their corresponding coordinates, so to speak.

So, for connecting artifical eyes to a human optic nerf, it stands to reason our brains will learn the same trick reasonable fast too, and 'auto-rewire' the impulses on their own, without us having to figure out what goes where exactly!

Re:Brain Interface (1)

Golddess (1361003) | about 2 years ago | (#42912071)

Reminds me of something I read about a long time ago. If you were to one day put on glasses that flipped the world upside-down, and wear them non-stop, after a few weeks, your brain would adjust to make that look right to you, and then if you take the glasses _off_ the world would look upside-down.

Re:Brain Interface (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 2 years ago | (#42916423)

This actually happens in everybody. The lens of the human eye inverts the image that comes through it. Human newborns haven't yet learned to correct for this, and their ability to follow motions with their eyes is thus impaired. By a month or so of age*, their brains have corrected and see things as we do. This is part of why it's important for babies to have moving objects to watch; it gives them things to learn eye-tracking with*.

* I'm no expert in the development of babies; this is stuff I read about years ago and I may have misremembered timescales and other details.

Re:Brain Interface (1)

wmac1 (2478314) | about 2 years ago | (#42907901)

These kind of solutions would only work if blindness is not related to the nerves carrying information to brain. So still some of the blind would be out of luck with these.

Re:Brain Interface (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42907939)

Figure out the coding and feeding directly into the primary visual cortex is feasible. Tricky part is making an implant that can continue to function for many years without needing replacement.

Re:Brain Interface (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about 2 years ago | (#42912453)

And is small enough to not be too burdensome. No one wants to walk around all day with 20lbs of hardware strapped to their face.

Re:Brain Interface (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42908419)

It will also not cure cancer but just like nerve damage that is out of the scope for this project.
Different problems will have different solutions. If the nerves are damaged we need bionic nerves, not bionic eyes.
This will still be helpful for the target group, people with defective eyes.

Sorry about the short response but your comment reminded me a bit on all those "It is useless because it's not as cheap as mechanical drives." comments every time there is a progress in the SSD market. or "It is useless because I can't drive 100 miles without recharging." regarding electric vehicles.
Different problems have different solutions and just because this one doesn't solve all problems perfectly doesn't mean that it won't be useful for many people.

Re:Brain Interface (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42908815)

It also won't work much beyond sensing light or dark for people who were born blind, but it's still really fantastic if you can give people ANY sight back.

Re:Brain Interface (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about 2 years ago | (#42912183)

Retinitus Pigmentosa is what this is meant to deal with, which is usually caused by a lack of bloodflow to the retina causing it to slowly die over time. By augmenting the retina, you restore sight. Sure this won't cure autism, either, but it's not meant to. As someone whose father has retinitus pigmentosa, this is extremely welcome news, as it means he might start feeling confident about moving around outside again.

Re:Brain Interface (1)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | about 2 years ago | (#42907951)

Camera implants are for borgs.. regenerative medicine should provide a viable cure, we need something more like this [sciencedaily.com] .

Re:Brain Interface (2)

buybuydandavis (644487) | about 2 years ago | (#42908063)

But eventually, the bionic eyes will be able to do things a natural eye cannot.

I, for one, welcome our new cyborg Overlords.

Better yet, I may be one of your new Cyborg Overlords. Start sucking up to me now, and beat the Christmas rush!

Re:Brain Interface (2)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 2 years ago | (#42908321)

I would love to see these kinds of solutions work too and stem cells just rock. I think both types of research will provide valuable information and exciting possibilities. Whichever one can restore/provide sight first is great. Who knows there may be some kinds of problems where each solution is superior to the other (whether it be cost, performance, risk, etc.). Even if the brain interface work and electronics aren't really used for vision issues in the future, the methods may become applicable in other areas like robotic prosthesis that connect to the brain.

Steve Austin's one was better in the 70's (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 2 years ago | (#42907659)

Just Saying... Seriously though, this is pretty awesome.

Re:Steve Austin's one was better in the 70's (1)

lxs (131946) | about 2 years ago | (#42909367)

and his right arm moved when you pressed the big red button on his back!

Thats Awesome! (3, Funny)

MassacrE (763) | about 2 years ago | (#42907665)

But, does it look like a women's hair clip painted gold?

Epic Fail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42907701)

Was approved in Europe nearly 2 years ago.

Try again.

Re:Epic Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42912623)

The FDA does not exist in Europe.

Try again.

Brain IO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42907765)

What this really does is get us started on actually plugging stuff into real peoples' brains. Blindness is a serious enough condition to justify a fair level of risk. Once this technology starts actually working well, it won't be about blind people (though they will benefit tremendously, obviously), it will be about augmenting human IO. Eventually, children won't learn to type, they'll learn to form their intention into a text output directly, or perhaps something more exotic than text. You'll be able to see infrared and ultraviolet. You'll be able to see more than just 3 colors. You won't need binoculars or microscopes. You won't need monitors, speakers, keyboards or mice. Poking your eye out will be a painful but temporary inconvenience. To get there we need to start working on real brain IO and we have to get the funding there. Commercial products like this is a start on that.

Re:Brain IO (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42907813)

IRL Syndicate, who's in?!

Re:Brain IO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42907929)

Just like the Deus Ex franchise of games.

Re:Brain IO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42910817)

In the dystopic future, this technology will be unaffordable to purchase outright but you can get it for free if you allow them to broadcast advertisements directly into your optic nerve, twenty-four hours per day.

Modifying the bionic eye's firmware to disable this feature will be a felony.

How much longer . . . (1)

prasadsurve (665770) | about 2 years ago | (#42907879)

till we get here [auctiva.com]

Geordi is going to be pissed (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42908489)

All those years wearing a stupid-looking visor that looks like he swiped it from a cylon, and it turns out that the eye implants already existed!

Re:Geordi is going to be pissed (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42908531)

Actually, the series did address that (or it might have been in one of the novels, ask a real trekkie). In the TNG timeframe, medical tech would have been easily up to the task of growing replacement biological eyes and reconnecting them. Geordie could have had that done any time he wished. He took the visor out of choice, because it provided him with vision in some ways superior to natural which he considered made him a better engineer. Most usefully, it could image in the thermal infra-red, allowing him to see at a glance patterns of heat dissipation that others would need hand-held instrumentation to observe, and because he saw these every time he looked at any component he gained a far greater understanding of what 'normal' looked like and how to spot slight deviations from it - allowing him to recognise a near-failure component that any normally-sighted engineer wouldn't notice until it failed completly.

Re:Geordi is going to be pissed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42909095)

This is true, but the visor technology also was very painful for him. In season 1 (I think) Q offered to fix his vision, but he declined. Also, Dr. Pulaski informed us that a real replacement had just become available for his type of blindness, but he turned it down for the reason that you listed. Most of the great biotechnology that we see coming in the future (some of which is already here) through growing cloned body parts and genetic engineering is illegal in the Star Trek universe due to the Eugenics Wars.

Re:Geordi is going to be pissed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42911183)

The real question is why they couldn't just print the visor onto contact lenses.

Re:Geordi is going to be pissed (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#42911943)

He took the visor out of choice, because it provided him with vision in some ways superior to natural which he considered made him a better engineer.

And nothing to do with the fact that he could switch to millimeter waves whenever Ensign Lefler [memory-alpha.org] walked by.

Food and Drug (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42911103)

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved what it says is the first bionic eye"

Is no one concerned that a bionic eye is neither a food, nor a drug?

I mean don't we want our fundamental government agencies to at the start, make basic sense?

Who has the DOE ever educated; The Department of Agriculture produces no crops.

Re:Food and Drug (1)

Joe Decker (3806) | about 2 years ago | (#42911241)

No, the inclusion of "articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals" in the original act creating the FDA (the FFDCA, the C is "Cosmetics", btw) has been more or less uncontroversial for longer than you or I have likely been alive.

Moreover, I have really have no desire to return to the era of Mrs. Moffat's Shoo-Fly Powders for Drunkenness [wikipedia.org] , or the bionic equivalent thereof.

Re:Food and Drug (1)

Joe Decker (3806) | about 2 years ago | (#42911251)

Meh. Wrong link, to the WP article history rather than the article. Sorry about that.

The eyes are not enough (1)

ech3 (88098) | about 2 years ago | (#42913247)

I saw a program [c-spanvideo.org] a while back interviewing an author about a book called "Crashing Through", where the main character looses his sight when he is very young, and then has it restored to him later in life. The problem was that because his brain had not learned to interpret the signals coming from it, he was unable to get "Normal" vision. From what I remember of the interview, a lot of people who have been in a similar situation get very depressed because they know their vision will never be restored and they are overwhelmed by the amount of new and useless info their brain is receiving.
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