Friday, September 25, 2009

MIT and the Artificial eye - not just in Star Trek

In Star Trek (the Next Generation), there's a blind character (Geordi LaForge) who wears an eyepiece that allows him to "see." Such technology may not be science fiction anymore.

Researchers at MIT are developing a retinal implant that will send signals to the brain. Here's a picture of the model on the right.
A model of the retinal implant: The coil that surrounds the iris receives visual data from a camera mounted on a pair of glasses. The coil sends the images to a chip attached to the side of the eyeball, which processes the data and sends it to electrodes implanted below the retina.
An artificial eye may not restore normal vision, but it could provide guidance and assistance for the blind. The theory is sound: When the microchip receives visual information, it activates electrodes that stimulate nerve cells in the areas of the retina corresponding to the features of the visual scene. The electrodes directly activate optical nerves that carry signals to the brain, bypassing the damaged layers of retina.

The retinal implant research is funded by the VA Center for Innovative Visual Rehabilitation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Catalyst Foundation and the MOSIS microchip fabrication service. To read more about the artificial eye, click here.

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