Ok, to all my Shadowrun buds. Just over 20 yrs. later we finally see the bio/cyber replacements for damaged or diseased organs, and not just for one but two models of vision replacement. Unfortunately, this only applies to those that have already had existing vision to begin with. The European medical market was of course to be the ones to do the theories and trials and debates, but let’s not get into that side of things, due to it might get ugly.
Developed by Second Sight, the first of these implants is the Argus II, which is now currently available on the European market. Running roughly at $115,000, the patient undergoes a 4-hour operation to implant an antenna behind the eye, and a pair of camera-equipped glasses that emits signals to the antenna. The antenna is then wired into the retina with about 60 electrodes, creating a 60-pixel display that the brain interprets. The users of the new Argus II bionic eye have reported they can see rough shapes and outlines, can see the movement of objects, and can read large written text.
Developed by Nano Retina, the second bionic eye implant, the Bio-Retina is a bit more interesting. The Bio-Retina is more cost effective — cost being roughly the $60,000 mark — and instead of an external set of camera displays, the vision-restoring sensor is actually placed within the eye, atop of the retina. This surgical procedure takes 3.5 hours less plus it can be performed under local anesthetic.
The reasons these were created for patients that suffer from macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, what happens is the light-sensitive rods and cones in the retina cease working. The Bio-Retina inserts 24×24-resolution about .5 megapixel sensor atop of the damaged retina, with 576 electrodes at the back of the sensor implant themselves into the optic nerve. Then a embedded image processor translates the data-feed from each of the pixels into electrical pulses that are encoded in a way that the brain perceives at different levels of grayscale, and through ongoing testing and development I’m pretty sure that color will be right around the corner before the end of this decade.
The Bio-Retina system comes with a standard pair of corrective lenses that are modified so that they can fire a near-infrared laser beam through the iris to the sensor at the back of the eye. On the sensor there is a photo-voltaic cell that generates up to 3 mill watts. This infrared laser is invisible and harmless to the patient.
Volunteer Human trials of Bio-Retina have been said to start in 2013 — and like Second Sight, US approval could be a long time coming especially with our current political state. There are however multiple research groups are working on bionic eyes with even electrodes, and thus higher resolution, there currently isn’t any progress on the sensors or encoder technology that can create a color image at this time. Though work is being done on the fundamentals with understanding the retina, optic nerve, and brain interpret, perceive images. Looks like that what was once RPG is now on threshold of reality.