Fifteen years ago, Cheri Robertson lost both of her eyes in a car accident. Now, thanks to a revolutionary operation to implant electrodes into her brain, she can see again, using an electronic device to feed optical signals to her mind.
The system works in a manner similar to the glasses of fictional engineer Geordie LaForge from Star Trek, namely by stimulating the visual cortex, the part of the brain which deals with seeing. It’s far from the perfect multi-wavelength device from the TV show, however; what the patients who have received the surgery can ‘see’ are little white flashes of light on a dark background, which they can learn to interpret as a vague picture of their environment. People formerly completely blind can now navigate themselves around a room without bumping into things, and can observe objects in a simplistic fashion.
This research has been assisted by the Dobelle Institute, which has been working on artificial vision systems since 1968. This current breakthrough has been accomplihed by the relevant technologies reaching a point where the implementation was possible. Further developments over the coming years will make the procedure cheaper and safer, and no doubt the quality of vision delivered will increase greatly as well. Further advances will come as the ongoing mapping and simulation of the human brain continues apace. Bionics will soon be helping restore quality of life to the sick, injured and disabled in all walks of life…and soon after that, no doubt we will use it to enhance ourselves beyond the current parameters of what it is to be human.
First link seen at Slashdot.