Vision is one of the most valuable assets of human beings. The loss of vision robs a person of color, beauty, and independence. For the visually impaired, the opportunity to regain part of their vision offers tremendous hope to live life more fully. While engineered eyes remain a distant dream, electronic retinal implants can illuminate some hope on the visually impaired. MIT has come up with a new prototype to help the visually impaired see better.
The prototype consists of a flexible substrate, power and data input coils, an electrode array, and a stimulator microchip. Users are required to wear special glasses fitted with a small camera that transmits images to a titanium-encased chip on the eyeball. The chip will fire an electrode array under the retina which will stimulate the optic nerve. The glasses help to power the coils surrounding the eyeball.
The electronic eye implant is designed for those diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration, the two leading causes of blindness. While not being able yet to reinstate full sight, the new technology restores partial sight to enable the affected individuals to lead a more independent life such as negotiating a room by themselves or walking down a sidewalk.