An increasing number of people are losing their central vision, so it is utterly crucial that we have alternatives for the restoration of sight, including biological and mechanical approaches. This ranges from stem cell therapies for photoreceptor replacement to gene therapies to restore dysfunctional retinal tissues to futuristic ideas of prosthetic retinas, all need to be considered if they can even help one person regain their vision.
You may not have heard about them, but lens implants are not a new thing. Implanted lenses are usually used as a solution for cataracts and other degenerative diseases, which mostly affects senior citizens. There are about 3.6 million patients in the U.S. who are affected by the disease every year.
Normal retinal tissue consists of photoreceptors: light-sensitive cells resembling rods and cones at the base of the eye, topped by interconnected layers of neurons. The signal travels from the rods and cones, through bipolar cells to ganglion cells, then via the optic nerve to several brain areas, including the visual cortex. Scientists can’t still exactly explain why the rods and cones disrupt in patients with retinal diseases, nor have they considered ways to avoid, slow or reverse the process.
A bionic eye, or retinal prosthesis system, should be designed to achieve functional vision goals, in this case, augmented reality as opposed to physical, cosmetic ones. It 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 discern what we see.
The panacea of restoring sight to the visually impaired is the stuff of sci-fi and this article will look at the potential use of Augmented Reality (AR) in bionic eyes.
Cataract surgery involves removal of the cloudy lens and substituting it with a thin artificial type of lens. This can be a good opportunity to offer not just a lens, but a platform to which other manufacturers could add diverse interactive sensors, drug delivery devices and Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) technologies.
Google and other tech companies have come up with glasses and contact lenses for the purposes of AR, but Omega Ophthalmics is taking a much more invasive method by using surgically implanted lenses to put augmented reality within your eye! They are creating a biologically inert space that is going to stay open for business for whoever can provide an appropriate implant to match with the technology.
This implant allows augmented reality to exist within your eye – no glasses or headset required (warning: graphic) (via NowThis Future)
Posted by NowThis on Saturday, September 9, 2017
Young people with good vision are not expected to be begging for AR inserts anytime soon. This platform should have a much broader application for 70-somethings wanting to continue independently. An augmented guide to enable these people to get around, or to alert them if something is medically wrong, would be useful. This could also be beneficial to “super soldiers” and other people who rely on large amounts of visual information for their day to day lives.
There is a huge market for AR, and Omega has already taken initial capital from angel investors and ophthalmologists that understand the space. So far, Omega has hit the six-month mark without any incidents on a very small human clinical trial outside of the U.S. that involved seven patients. The company must still wait for FDA approval, and hopefully, Ophthalmics will receive approval in Europe within one or two years, pending the results of larger trials. The question that remains is, does the technology work? Only the future will tell for this visual revolution!