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Laser Vision: Bionic Eye A Reality

Have you ever seen science fiction movies where the hero (or sometimes the villain) has an eye replaced or augmented with a laser? This may have been crazy science fiction for some, but it also represented a dream for those who had lost the ability to see. Bionic eye implants have been tested and successfully implanted in people to allow for low resolution (usually 60 “pixels” or 60 grayscale dots) sight to distinguish door  openings or large objects.

The problem so far has been that 60 pixels worth of vision doesn’t provide much useful information. Sixty is slightly less than a 8 by 8 grid, and being able to tell one person from another at that resolution is very difficult.

Here is a simulated sample image made up of 64 pixels.

A new invention by the company Nano Retina hopes to change all that. The Bio-Retina is an implant that uses lasers to product a 576 pixel resolution (24×24) field of vision, allowing for far greater recognition of scenes and objects. This implant is also slated to cost about 40% less then the competing products and be able to be implanted under local anesthetic.

Here is the same simulated sample image made up of 576 pixels.

This implant is for people suffering from macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, with human trials beginning in 2013. Approval for US based customers may be a long time coming, however, as FDA approvals for bionic implants can take a long time.

Still, the future is starting to look bright for those suffering from vision impairment and the once fantastical idea of a laser vision system for the blind may be looking you right in the face one day soon.

P.S. That photo is of Steve our company founder at his desk! We downsized the photo to 8×8 and 24×24 respectively to give a good sample of what an image might look like in grayscale.