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19. The "Eye Chip" or Retina Chip - Nifty 50

Eye as seen through a digital camera

Research to develop a retinal implant that could bring vision back to some of the six million Americans who suffer from retinal degenerative diseases has been supported primarily by NSF.

Such research is a few years away from implementation in humans, and the likely results will be to restore only some vision. Complete sight or near-perfect sight restoration with this technique is many years away.

Artificial vision

Researchers are trying to produce an artificial vision system that can electronically capture and transmit images to the brain to create sight. The eye chip picks up images from an array of photosensors and translates them into electrical signals sent to nerve cells in the retina.

The eye chip would consist of a computerized miniature video camera mounted on a pair of glasses, and a computer chip would be surgically implanted in the eye.The camera would transmit the image to the computer chip, which would be connected to tissue in the back of the eye, or the retina, to then be transmitted to the brain.

This project has been ongoing for more than 10 years. Researchers are a few years from permanently implanting an eye chip in a blind person.

Research has allowed patients who had not seen light in eye tests to see light and to make out some shapes and sizes, suggesting remaining neurons in the eye can be artificially activated.

Original publication date: April 2000

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