Bernardeta Gómez has been blind for 16 years: today, thanks to a "bionic eye" developed by the Spanish neuroengineer Eduardo Fernandez, she has been able to see again. And without using his biological eyes.
The bionic eye, the system that Fernandez is perfecting in his laboratory of the University of Miguel Hernandez, it includes some different parts. The details have been described in a newly published paper in the MIT Technology Review magazine.
How the bionic eye works
First of all, there are glasses equipped with a camera that connects to a computer. The computer translates the camera's live video feed into electronic signals. These signals are then sent via a cable to a door that Fernandez has surgically inserted into the back of Bernardeta's skull. Finally, that door is in turn connected to an implant in the visual cortex of the patient's brain.
6 months of sight
The 100-electrode neural implant was inserted and tested for 6 months, then "the bionic eye was removed". It must have been hard to regain your sight and then retake it again.
For those six months, however, Gómez visited the laboratory four times a week, using the system to view a low resolution version of the world around her. Although what she "saw" in her mind were little more than bright spots, it was already enough to allow her to identify letters, lights and people.
"He even played a simple Pac-Man-like computer game directly in his brain.", I read on MIT Tech.
Bionic eye: it works. And now?
Now that Fernandez knows that his bionic eye is working, he is looking forward to the next steps. These will include methods of preventing implant degradation while in the body, and testing on multiple people.
“Bernardeta was our first patient, but in the next two years we will install implants in five other blind people. We had done similar experiments on animals, but a cat or ape cannot explain what they are seeing. "
A new approach
The new approach of the good eye or could have a much greater impact than that obtained from previous solutions.
All attempts to create a bionic eye were focused on implants in the eye itself. You needed a functioning eye, or a functioning optic nerve. Or other factors.