A blind person has been able to read four letter words accurately after researchers streamed braille patterns directly into the retina. An ocular neuroprosthetic device called the Argus II, was implanted in over 50 patients, many of who now report seeing color, movement and objects.
A small camera was mounted onto a pair of glasses, and a portable processor to translate the signal from the camera into electrical stimulation, plus a microchip with electrodes were implanted directly on the retina.
The patient was able to see the visuals in less than a second with up to 89% accuracy.
Very similar in concept to successful cochlear implants, this visual implant uses a grid of 60 electrodes attached to the retina to stimulate patterns directly onto nerve cells. In this study a computer was used to stimulate six of these points on the grid to project the braille letters. A range of tests were conducted with single letters as well as words ranging in length from two letters up to four. The patient was shown each letter for half a second and had up to 80% accuracy for short words.
This study is a proof of concept that points to the importance of clinical experiments involving new neuroprosthetic devices to improve the technology and innovate adaptable solutions.
Primarily for sufferers of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) a genetic disease, the implant Argus II has been shown to restore limited reading capability of large conventional letters and short words when used with the camera. While reading should improve with future iterations of the Argus II, the current study shows how the Argus II could be adapted to provide an alternative and potentially faster method of text reading with the addition of letter recognition software. This ability to perform image processing in software prior to sending the signal to the implant is a unique advantage of Argus II.