Bionic Eyes

Bionic EyeI read “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” by Ray Kurzweil seven years ago. I have to admit that this was a difficult book to read. It is a bit hard to summarize, but basically the singularity is how Ray describes the merger of biological humans and machines. He makes a strong set of arguments, based on empirical and historical data, that computers will have more storage and vastly more computing capability than humans within 20-30 years or less.
The implications are profound and will be troubling to many people. I suspect that if someone had described the world wide web to us thirty years ago, many people would have said no thanks. If you have grandchildren, as I do, this book makes you think what things will be like for them by the time they become parents. At some point I will write more about the Singularity, but for now I will just report on one of the many developments that are occurring that support Kurzweil’s theory.
Each week, I look forward to reading Dr. Robin Felder’s “Medical Automation – Health Care for the Future e-newsletter“, where I learn about the latest breakthroughs that are emerging. Monash University was established in Melbourne, Australia in 1958. They consider themselves to be a youthful organization that is enthusiastic, optimistic, and accessible. They believe quality education and research can change the world for the better. 
The Monash Vision system will combine state of the art digital and biomedical technology with consumer-friendly glasses. A digital camera embedded in the glasses will capture images of what you are “looking” at. Digital processors will modify the images captured by the camera and a wireless transmitter will then present the image that you are “looking at” to a chip that has been implanted at the back of the brain. The brain chip will stimulate the visual cortex of the brain with electrical signals using an array of electrodes.  The brain will learn to interpret these signals as sight. 
Needless to say, this research is in the early stages.  Monash is developing the direct to brain bionic eye for people with vision impairment caused by specific conditions, including glaucoma and macular degeneration. It may also help people who have damage to their optic nerves or eyes resulting from trauma or disease. It is not hard to imagine that the technology will evolve to the point that the blind will be able to see.

Descriptions to go with the numbered items in the graphic:

  1. Outside glasses – digital camera
  2. Inside glasses – eye movement sensor will direct the camera
  3. Side of glasses – digital processor and wireless transmitter
  4. Brain implant – small implant under the skull will receive wireless signals and directly stimulate the brain’s visual cortex