Monthly Archives: May 2012
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Avar-Tek Event 3: Cohesion Lost
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The bionic eye is an artificial device that gives site to the blind or enhanced sight to those who can see on their own — a cybernetic device. Currently, bionic eyes for the blind are experimental with some success depending on when the patient was blinded and what cause the blindness. According to Wikipedia, there are at least 11 ongoing bionic eye projects:
- Argus Retinal Prosthesis
- Microsystem-based Visual Prosthesis (MIVIP)
- Implantable Miniature Telescope
- Tübingen MPDA Project Alpha IMS
- Harvard/MIT Retinal Implant
- Artificial Silicon Retina (ASR)
- Optoelectronic Retinal Prosthesis
- Dobelle Eye
- Intracortical Visual Prosthesis
- Virtual Retinal Display (VRD)
- Visual Cortical Implant
In the video below Miikka Tertho, a blind man, sees images for first time (filmed by the University of Tuebingen/Retina Implant AG). This is not Six Million Dollar Man stuff. (Remember that show?) This is not Lee Majors zooming in on the bad guy with a “boop-boop-boop-boop.” This is a blind who can see because he has something like parts of a camcorder stuck in his eye.
Seeing verses Perceiving
Mike May (not the guy in the video above) was 3 years old when a chemical explosion blinded him. In 2000 when he was 46 years old, he regained partial vision after a corneal transplantation stem cell procedure. Although he can see, he has difficulty perceiving. “May still has no intuitive grasp of depth perception. As people walk away from him, he perceives them as literally shrinking in size, problems distinguishing male from female faces, and recognizing emotional expressions on unfamiliar faces”(Wikipedia, Article: Mike May (skier))
One theory is that the temporal visual cortex uses prior memory and experiences to make sense of shapes, colors and forms. During our first five years of life outside the womb, our brains are building a library or database of images associated with their context. Over time, subtle cues are extracted from those images. The visual cortex compares the image we see now to those library of cues. But that part of the library of our brain is best stocked early when our brains are subtle. For Mike May, this part of the library was closed, but he was able to stock the cues in the sound and touch section. He developed very precise senses of hearing and touch.
The Problem with Adult Bionics
In the future when cybernetic replacements or enhancements are more common, it will also be necessary to fiddle with the mind to get the implants to work easily. A method might be found that will allow the patient to restock his or her visual database quickly. If not, then seeing will not equal perceiving.
Images and video courtesy of Retina Implant AG.
I had the opportunity last Thursday to visit NASA’s Space Power Facility.
I won’t bore you with the stats. You can see them here. This blog is a personal reflection.
I was born in the 60’s and one of my earliest memories is the glow of the television on my dad’s face late one night. I snuck out of bed and dad was in the living room, nose near the tube and eyes aglow with anticipation. My curiosity was enflamed by my parents excitement, but a few sharp rebukes from my father sent me to bed, my curiosity unsatiated.
I think it was one of the Apollo missions, NASA’s lunar landings, maybe even the landing with Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind.” Even if it wasn’t, that lit a spark that eventually drove me through college and brought me to a career in engineering and science fiction. It inspired stories like A Taste of Earth and Death Has No Shadow. OK, Star Trek, Star Wars, Space 1999 (yes, it’s dorky now, but wasn’t then), the space shuttle, and a thousand other things fueled that curiosity, but the spark was lit by NASA.
That passion for space exploration fizzled recently, when the shuttle’s reign came to an end. I can understand why it did, but it has left a vacuum in American space leadership that makes me feel like we’ve dropped the ball.
Walking into the facility Thursday reignited that spark. It was huge. When we got there and passed through the security checkpoint, our guide told us to follow him by car to the SPF building. It would be a three mile drive. Three miles? The rest of the visit was likewise filled with astronomical numbers … pun intended. The pictures here don’t convey the scope of the project. It was something to be felt, to be lived. A reverberation room with a 40-foot or higher wall lined with speaker “horns” — some larger than feet across — that could generate enough air pressure to crush your organs.
The flame is lit again.
Post Script: Yesterday, my wife and I took our older children to see the Avengers. In the first scene, the one with the blue cube (the Tesseract), was filmed in the SPF Test Chamber. Did you see the movie? Do you recognize it?