Recently developed bionic-eye has made it possible for blind people to read simple words and letters. This new implant functions by converting images shown from an external camera into electronic signals which the brain perceives as sight.
Tests were conducted on 21 patients suffering from 'retinitis pigmentosa', a degenerative disorder which destroys cells at the back of the eyes which receive light. On implanting the bionic-eye, almost three-quarters of the subjects identified single alphabets accurately and more than half read four-lettered words. Richard Barret, one of the recipients of the new implant had partial or vague perception of light in one eye.
After bionic-eye implantation, he can, not only locate objects but also find his way around. He explained that he used the scan to reach door-frames. He was also able to identify window-locations indoors. He added that bionic-eye functioned well especially when he had to confront a path with grass on one side since it clearly defined the edge of the path.
The device, Argus II is the only available retinal prosthesis currently available and approved. It works by feeding pictures through a cable from a camera mounted on the glasses to an electronic chip which rests on the retina of the eye. On receiving a signal, this chip stimulates the optic nerve which in turn carries the signal to the center for visual processing in the brain. This results in the user getting a highly pixelated view of the picture in black and white.
Lydon da Cruz, retinal surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital, London said that Argus-II could actually restore certain amount of meaningful vision to patients who would've otherwise lived with their blindness. He said that such patients could also read letters five centimeters in size even if they were formed into words. This was a big achievement with regards to the ability of the device.