[AI] The Blind Shall Can See
rambabu_arb at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 23 10:44:17 EDT 2008
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008
The blind shall now see
Ian Sample and Rachel Williams
Camera’s electronic signal gives brain a view of objects
Device enables patients to walk about independently
More patients to be treated soon
London: Surgeons have fitted “bionic eyes” to two men in their 50s to
partially restore their eyesight. They are among 15 patients who have been
given the artificial retinas as part of a three-year trial in the U.S.,
Mexico and Europe.
The two men are the first in Britain to have the artificial retinas
fitted. These were done in three-hour surgical procedures at Moorfields
Eye hospital in London, it was confirmed on Monday. Both were completely
blind, but will now be able to walk around unaided and identify simple
If the trial is successful, the £15,000 (about Rs. 12 lakh) retinas could
be approved for general use within three years.
The men have an inherited disease, retinitis pigmentosa, which
progressively destroys the eye’s light-sensitive cells, and affects tens
of thousands of people around the world.
The procedure implanted a tiny metal plate studded with electrodes into
the retina at the back of the eye. A little video camera mounted on a pair
of glasses beams images to the electrodes, which connect via the optic
nerve to the brain. Patients wear a small unit at their waist to power the
camera and process the images.
While not reproducing natural vision, the system enables the viewing of
basic images on a 10 x 6 grid.
“These people are truly blind and are dependent on a stick, a dog or
another person to find their way around. We want to see if we can give
them some level of rudimentary vision which they find useful,
predominantly to navigate, so they get some independence,” said Lyndon da
Cruz, a consultant surgeon who did the procedures last week.
Moorfields expects to treat three more patients soon, and a further five
if there are no complications. The device is designed by a U.S. company,
Second Sight, and is an upgrade of a protype first implanted in 2002 with
16 electrodes arranged in a 4 x 4 grid, enabling patients to walk about
independently and distinguish basic objects such a cup or plate on a
table. The latest version has 60 electrodes, giving much more detail.
Doctors expect it will take the men a few months to learn to use the
Greg Cosendai, Second Sight’s director for Europe, said: “They should
receive enough information to be able to read. That doesn’t mean it
[definitely] will work for them, but it’s certainly a milestone, along
with recognising faces.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008
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