Researchers have discovered a way for blind people to read text by translating the alphabet into braille, and sending an image of the translation to visual neurons in the eye using an implant that scientists are currently working on. The implant uses a modified version of retinal prosthesis that aims to restore partial sight to people with damaged retinas.
According to NewScientist, the implant would allow blind people to read text that would be impossible for them to read otherwise, since there's no braille translation readily available, such as street signs, billboards, etc. The implant, which is called the Argus II, provides a “display” out of a 10×6 grid, and is implanted over a person’s retina.
The original purpose of the Argus II was to give someone a pixelated view of the world, and differentiate between light and dark, as well as make out objects like windows and doorways. With the new braille translation feature, the person will be able to read signs and other text around them. Researchers say that testing has already begun and they're seeing good results. One volunteer was able to read at a rate of about one letter per second, and was accurate 89% of the time.
Of course, this is nowhere as fast as reading braille by touch, since the typical braille user can read up to 800 letters per minute, but the implant could prove to be a huge innovation for the blind community, and hopefully the technology will continue to improve so that blind people will be able to read translated text even quicker.
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