Tuesday, 26 June 2012

When Bionic Eyes are smiling.

In the 70s there was an action toy that allowed me to think that steve Austin was a bionic man with the ability to jump higher lift and see further then any other human. The cost of which would be a cheap price of 6 million dollars with the currency exchange of 1.56, I could buy upgrades at about £3.8 million pounds(If I was to win the lottery). But with the real lame looking electronics and possible power supply limited to nickel hydrogen power cells which is suppose to be for satellites (also need to be pressurized to 1200 psi making it dangerous if shot).
The whole idea of bionic implants would be ridiculous in the 70s. But today I am not sure considering certain technologies are advanced enough to allow direct to nerve surgery.

My other blog article mentions that with a simple few connections to the nerve endings you could train those nerve fibers to fire and operate the micro sensors which are connected to a electrical mechanical arm. Considering that a grabbing motion needs two signals to grab and let go or that an arm would possibly need less then ten connecters to function as an arm.
New leaps into technology with the idea that micro electronics with the ability to shrink down the business end of a camera to a few millimeters. The idea is to have a photo graphic like representation of a sensor array or out put array drawn much like the picture slide projector but in reverse. lithography machines with laser light etch away light sensitive parts leaving circuits behind eventually over 25 exposures for each part of the component of the chip circuit will build up to what is a complex circuit.

Dr robert Greenberg and Bio electronics engineer Dr Wentai at University of California, Santa Cruz were the original inventors of the active epi retinal prosthesis. They formed a company in the late 90's called Second sight. their first generation implant had 16 electrodes and was implanted to 6 subjects from 2002 to 2004.
The six test subject who were completely blind, could now perform surprising array of tasks using the device. In 2007 the resolution of the implants was increased from 16 to 60 electrodes. Dubbed the Argus II in the US and Europe had 30 subjects participating spanning in 10 sits and 4 countries. In spring of 2011, the results of the studies published in Ophthalmology, Argus II was approved for commercial use in europe. The FDA have yet to green light the project in the US, despite support from the National Eye Institute, Department of energy, and National Science Foundations.

Dr Mohamad Sawan Professor and researcher at Poly neurotechnologies Laboratory, has been working on a visual Prosthesis to be implanted on the visual cortex. The idea is to implant a silicon microchip on a network of electrodes. The Biocompatible material injects a stimulating electrical current in order to provoke a series of luminous points to appear as like a array of pixels for a blind person.
The system is composed of two distinct parts, the implant and the external controller. The implant is lodged  in the visual cortex and receives data as well as power wirelessly from the external controller. the external battery operated controller consists of a camera as well as processor and command generator. This converts the micro camera image to a manageable data  flow for the stimulating process.

It seems to me there is a bionic eye race between the German researchers the Americans and Austrians all looking to make their product. Though from my understanding the Austrian and the German companies are
hoping to cure a specific problem of Retinitis pigmentosa, an age related eye degenerative disease.

I was hoping technology would move along to more then 60 electrodes, there has been improvements to increase to 100 electrodes, not enough to read but just about ok to maneuver in a street environment. With each company saying that improvements could reach to 1000 electrodes (the ability to visualize fine print and see facial detail ), I think probably the technology is still in its infancy. The cost for a Argus II implant is around $115,000 which is a high price for a 60 pixel screen on your eyeball. Not quite a retinal display on your retina. But until 1000 pixels has been cracked, it will mean the possibility of super cyborg humans. The idea of replacing a normal CCD camera with a high power tele-focusing lens or even a multi spectrum electromagnetic wave sensor, we can be like the fictional blind character Geordi La Forge and see infra red visible light and all the other colors of the rainbow.

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