The bionic eye, or retinal prosthesis, is clinically approved in Europe
This past Spring the technology review blog published by MIT reported that a bionic eye has been approved for commercial use in Europe. Now, at least partial restoration of vision is available for some people with blindness related to retinal degeneration and disease.
The system is called the Argus II and was developed by a California company called Second Sight. The devices are now available through a limited number of clinics in Switzerland, France, and the United Kingdom. Second Sight hopes to have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve the Argus II for use in America by next year.
The device, which costs $115,000, works with a camera mounted on a pair of glasses. The glasses wirelessly transmit images to a chip implanted in the wearer’s retina. The wireless signal stimulates remaining retinal cells which then send the image to the brain, creating limited vision the patient can perceive. So far only 60 electrodes are contained in the retinal implant, allowing for limited light and shape perception, but future designs will include more electrodes for better visual restoration. A German company, Retinal Implants AG, is developing in implant with 1,500 electrodes as well as photodiodes to eliminate the need for external glasses or a camera.
The Argus II is notable, though, because it has already been implanted in at least 30 patients with success. Take a look at the video below to see how the Argus II retinal prosthesis works.