California-based medical device company Second Sight developed the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System – the only FDA-approved bionic eye device. Since the Argus II humanitarian approval in 2013, mechanical eye technology has advanced exponentially and now the possibilities are endless.
With 285 million people worldwide visually impaired, devices like Melbourne’s diamond-electrode bionic eyes are starting to have a lasting impact on shaping the future of vision.
Even though devices like Argus II or Melbourne’s bionic eyes have yet to restore vision to 20/20 levels, progress is being made. According to a recent Futurism article, the bionic eye or retinal prosthesis system, “works by bridging the gap between light entering the eye and the optic nerve – which is what communicates images to the brain so we can interpret what we see.”
Second Sight’s approval, according to FDA’s 2013 press release, extends only to patients with Retinitis Pigmentsa – a rare genetic disorder that damages the light-sensitive cells that line the retina inside the eye. The Argus II System helps these patients by tapping into the optic nerve. It does this by not only by integrating a camera inside a pair of sunglasses; but even more importantly, using an implant on the surface of the eye. The end result: patients in the clinical trial were able to perform these activities better with Argus:
• Locating and touching a square on a white field
• Detecting the direction of motion
• Recognizing large letters, words, or sentences
• Detecting street curbs
• Walking on sidewalks without stepping off
• Matching black, gray and white socks
If Argus is capable of restoring sight in the visually impaired, just imagine if mechanical eye technology took one step further. By connecting Argus’ camera to smart glasses like the Zungle Panther or Recon Jet, for example, wearers could experience restored vision and at the same time, take advantage of groundbreaking display technology.
According to Futurism, advances in bionic eye technology could let us see the entire electromagnetic spectrum. From radio waves to gamma waves, this would allow us to see heat, identify different types of gases, look through walls, zoom in and out, record what we see, connect to Wi-Fi, etc. Whether it’s the fire department “seeing” harmful carbon monoxide prior to entering a home or scientists studying cancer cells without the use of microscopes, bionic eye technology could change how the world sees everything.