Optobionics is developing an artificial retina that is being used to help partially restore vision in people with age-related degeneration or retinal diseases.
A small silicon chip with 5,000 electrodes is implanted into the back of the eye. Each electrode transforms incoming light into electrochemical pulses that stimulate existing retinal cells. The first patients are now able to see more light, although cannot yet make out visual details.
This advancement follows a cochlear implant made by Advanced Bionics, which was installed last month in Cora Jean Kleppe, 73. She can now hear her grandchildren and function better in life.
The amazing part is the brain only needs a little bit of crude information to reconstruct the sounds or sights around it. These devices are not sending detailed information, but only rudimentary electrical signals based on light impinging on an electrode or a small microphone mounted on their head. Your brain can adapt its neuron network to properly interpret the environment based on whatever information it can scrounge from these sorts of devices. Don’t be surprised if these first bionic patients experience improved responses over time.