After extensive theorizing, and the postulation of preliminary tests on animals, bionic eye has finally become accessible to people - first in Europe and then in the United States. These implants can restore vision in a fully blind patients, but only if the defect is caused by retinal blindness, as in the case of macular degeneration (which affects millions of elderly), diabetic retinopathy and other degenerative diseases of the eye.
The first samples of the implant, called Argus II, developed in the bowels of the company Second Sight, already available in Europe. For $ 115,000 over the patient carried a 4 hour operation to install the antenna behind the eye and give special glasses with a camera that sends a signal to the antenna. The antenna is connected to the retina by the electrodes 60, which is equivalent to the screen with a resolution of 60 pixels, which interprets signals from the brain. First the happy owners of a bionic eye Argus II report that could see crude forms, track the movement of objects and slowly read written in large print.
Another bionic eye implant, Bio-Retina from the firm Nano Retina, boasts even more advanced technical features. It is less than about $ 60 000, and characterized in that the outer chamber instead of transmitting a video signal using a sensor that is not integrated in the conventional spectacles, and directly into the eye itself, the surface of the retina. The operation takes only half an hour and can be performed under local anesthesia.
When macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, the light-sensitive rods and cones in the retina stop working. The kit Bio-Retina is a sensor with a resolution of 24 by 24 pixels (total 576 pixels), which is placed directly on the damaged retina, and 576 electrodes behind the sensor, connect it with the optic nerve. Integrated image processor converts the information of each pixel into electric pulses encoded so that the brain perceives them to black and white.
Curious way in which the power sensor. System of Bio-Retina supplied with standard corrective lenses, which have been modified so that the laser beam produced in the near infrared spectrum, which enters through the iris into the sensor, built into the eye. The sensor is located photovoltaic panel up to 3 mW. Such a small amount more than enough energy to operate the device. The infrared laser is invisible and safe. See on Bio-Retina in action can enlarge the video.
Bio-Retina tests on humans are scheduled for early 2013. Many research groups are working on bionic eyes with even more electrodes, allowing to obtain a higher-resolution image. But the sensors or encoding chips, which will create a color picture still remain out of reach.