MIT researchers have come up with a retinal implant that sends images from a glasses-mounted camera directly to the brain, via the optic nerve. Intended to bring some degree of vision back to the blind, the system should begin real-world testing in around three years time, according to MIT electrical engineering professor John Wyatt.
While the vision the implant allows for won't be as clear as true 20/20 sight, what it will do is allow users to recognize faces and navigate more freely. The MIT team are banking on that being a boost to self-confidence: "If they can recognize faces of people in a room, that brings them into the social environment as opposed to sitting there waiting for someone to talk to them" explained one project member.
The system works by wirelessly sending information from the camera in the eyeglasses, via an inductive coil, to a titanium-clad microchip either inside or attached to the outside of the eyeball. That chip triggers electrodes which simulate light hitting the cones and rods inside a healthy eyeball, signals which are then sent to the brain. The hope is that the chip will last for ten years use at a time.