[AI] Hope for the blind
faizal.vaduthala6 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 20 09:54:01 EDT 2010
New technology gives hope for the blind
Thursday, April 15, 2010
lawrence livermore lab, health
LIVERMORE, CA (KGO) -- A technology that's bringing limited sight to
people suffering from certain kinds of blindness could soon become
much more powerful. That's because of advances being made by
researchers at the Lawrence Livermore Lab.
Last September Dean Lloyd began training his brain to see what his eyes cannot.
A camera in Dean's glasses is focused on UCSF researcher Dr. Jacque
Duncan. As she moves, her image is sent through a video processor, to
an experimental device that will then project it onto the neurons in
dean's right eyes. Not as a complete picture, but flashes of light.
"We try to connect the stars to get some sort of an image," Dean said.
The light Dean sees is produced by a surgically implanted strip
containing dozens of electrodes. It's part of an artificial retina
system called the Argus-2.
The materials it uses to capture and transmit the light were created
at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.
"So this device has to be very soft, very sensitive to the retina and
has to put minimal pressure. So we use a polymer, a bio-compatible
polymer," project manager Sat Pannu.
Pannu showed ABC7 how the unique materials are made. First he passes
into a lab lit with the kind of colored lamps you might expect to see
heating a chicken at the deli-counter.
"To make these devices, we actually have to transfer a pattern onto
our thin films," he said.
In a multi-stage process, his team will sandwich light-sensitive
layers onto a wafer, then manipulate them to create a kind of
bio-compatible processor for the eye.
"It's basically another polymer that's sensitive to light. So when it
gets exposed to light in certain area, it actually develops away, and
where we don't expose it to light it stays behind," Pannu said.
Ultimately, those microscopic pathways channeled through the polymers
will guide electrical impulses to the optic nerves inside the retina,
producing the sensation of light.
Remember though, the device Dean is wearing contains only about 60
electrodes or pixels, allowing him to see rudimentary shapes.
But soon a new generation of the technology being developed at
Livermore could improve that resolution, and what the patient is able
to see dramatically
"So currently, the goal is to develop 1,000 electrodes, and at that
resolution we're pretty sure patients will be able to see faces, to
recognize different faces, so we're really shooting for that," Pannu
Facial recognition and someday, farther into the future, he believes
possibly color vision too.
For now, the lab is working on a more modest 240 electrode model,
before tackling the 1000-pixel version. But for patients like Dean,
it's a future coming more clearly into focus.
The artificial retina project is being funded in large part by the
Department of Energy. The Livermore team hopes to have the new
version, to be called the Argus-3, ready by next year.
Written and produced by Tim Didion
More information about the AccessIndia