Technology for restoring vision to the blind continues to improve with devices like the Argus II, a system of special glasses and electrodes implanted directly in the retina. While only six people in the U.S. are using the Argus II, more and more similar means of achieving “bionic eyes” are becoming available. These systems allow patients who have lost sight due to certain eye diseases to regain basic recognition of light and shapes.
The Argus II involves a simple set of glasses equipped with a camera not unlike those in smartphones. The camera sends images to a small converter box carried on the person, which then sends readable signals to electrodes implanted in the retina. This bypasses damaged areas of the eye to allow the patient to receive basic information from surroundings.
The technology does not work for every case of blindness–the patient’s retina still needs to be intact in order to implant the special electrodes. But in one use of the Argus II, a 66-year-old woman with retinitis pigmentosa was able to regain basic vision after ten years of complete blindness due to the disease. Developers of the Argus II and similar technology hope that these successes will help continue to improve methods of restoring vision. See a video.