It’s difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to not see anything because I am not blind. I’ve worked with students who are blind and although they appear to live happy, relatively normal lives, they do face certain struggles on a daily basis. For these students the potential of bionic eyes could alter their world. If you’ve ever watched videos where a Deaf individual is suddenly able to hear, you’ve probably noticed that the their reaction to being able to hear is amazing. This makes me wonder, how would a blind person react to being able to see?
There are actually already is a bionic eye available in the United States, but it can only be used for specific eye impairments. There are a variety of other bionic eyes being developed, however, none of these designs have been tested yet. Because there are different types of blindness and visual impairments, there will need to be different types of bionic eyes.
The current technology available is the Argus II. This device is in the form of what appear to be sunglasses. It works by transmitting signals to the retinas of blind individuals. Unfortunately, this device won’t make vision crystal clear. It will allow an individual to perform basic functions, but the device won’t allow an individual to sit down and read a novel with ease. Right now, the device is only available for individuals with retinitis pigmentosa. This condition affects approximately one in every five-thousand people.
The glasses work through a camera that sends signals to an implanted chip. This chip has sixty electrodes that allow the information to be processed in the brain. The individual wearing the glasses can then see basic shapes, but not colors. The camera has limitations due to the small amount of of electrodes. While, sixty electrodes might seem like a lot, we actually have well over a million electrodes that help us to see.
Although this device, has the ability to change lives, it’s likely not be affordable to the general public. The cost of the device and the procedure will run upwards of $150, 000. Right now, it hasn’t been determined whether the device will be covered by insurance, but this could make a difference in the affordability. In the future, this technology could become available for everyone and might be more affordable.