Continuing ground-breaking advances in visual technology in recent years, scientists from Second Sight have produced a device that helps those with Retinitis Pigmentosa (a degenerative eye disorder) regain the ability to see colour, movement and objects.
Dubbed the Retinal Prosthesis System by Second Sight, the 'Argus II' is already being used by over fifty different patients suffering with the eye disorder, allowing wearers to interpret certain patterns of light to 'see' the world around them once more. Featuring a miniature front-facing camera located centrally on the pair of glasses, the device captures eye-level footage and uses an external visual processor worn by the user to transform visual data into signals, before these are then sent back up to the glasses and transmitted wirelessly to an implant on the eye. The implant itself has an array of electrodes that lay on top of the remaining retinal cells, and uses electronic pulses to stimulate the cells so that visual signals can be sent to the brain.
While by no means does it give the wearer a full sense of what is around them, what is does grant them is a rough idea of their surroundings, where even reading becomes possible, all without the need for other sensory input, namely touch. Since the device allows the wearer to see patterns of light, Second Sight's Argus II does much more than giving users just a rough idea of their surroundings, effectively allowing wearers to 'see' Braille, a language commonly known by the blind. It has effectively increased reading speed of its users twenty-fold, proving tremendously accurate in identifying single letters (89%) and even two, three and four-letter words (70%).
The device has become CE approved in Europe and is available, but for has yet to get FDA approval in the States, though there’s little stopping that from happening. While there are devices out there that give a better resolution of what is known as 'raw' visual data, the Argus II is one example where the focus is placed firmly on on increasing a person’s ability to read again. A combination of the two techniques, though, can't be far away.