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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Ocular implant lets the blind 'see' Braille

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

The electrode array implanted directly onto the retina.
(Credit: Second Sight)

An electrode array placed in a blind test subject's eye has allowed researchers to transfer Braille patterns directly to the retina.

Usually paired with goggles mounted with a video camera, the Argus II Retina Prosthesis by Second Sight transforms a visual scene into a series of electrical pulses. These are transferred wirelessly to a grid of 60 electrodes implanted directly onto the subject's retina — conveying that information to the brain, so that the subject can "see" what is in front of them.

The array has already entered clinical trial, with 30 test subjects displaying a marked improvement in perceiving the world around them.

In this latest experiment, Second Sight researchers have bypassed the camera, sending a signal directly into the eye of a single test subject via computer, and lighting up Braille codes in a 6x2 array of electrodes in the grid.

Firstly, single letters were stimulated, followed by short two- to four-letter words. The subject had a success rate of 89 per cent for the single letters, 80 per cent for two-letter words, 60 per cent for three-letter words and 70 per cent for four-letter words.

Although subjects in the clinical trial were correctly able to identify letters on a page, this solution would be much better for those patients who, blind from birth or a very young age, know no other system but Braille.


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