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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 just got back from the doctor for a cybernetic implant tune-up. She got on my case for going beyond the six month recommended tune-up cycle. I also haven’t been taking the prescribed minerals the nano-factories need to spit out the little doctors.
What? You haven’t heard about little doctors? (Yes, this is fictional.) How about nanites? No? What century are you living in, the 21st? OK, I’ll explain. Here in the 23rd Century, little doctors or bio-nano-robots are microscopic biomechanical engines — some as small as a large molecule — injected into your bloodstream either by needle, by healing stones, or more commonly by cybernetic implants. The implants create the little doctors on an as-needed basis.
I’ll expand on this more in future posts, but in summary, they extend your natural healing systems, reinforce bone and muscular structures, and help fight against aging. Here’s an old but good vid about the early uses of nanotechnology and bio-nano-robots:
Oh, by the way. If you do get the implants, be sure to keep your virus protection up to date. The implants makes potential computer viruses more deadly than some biological viruses.
See Recruiting Angles for healing stones in action.
See Death Has No Shadow for for nanites gone wild.
Image from Metallurgy for Dummies.