( Originally Posted in Cloud 961- June 2014)
Thanks to advances in biotechnology, it has become possible for blind people to have a limited degree of vision. Scientists have managed to come up with visual prosthesis, referred to as bionic eyes to restore partial sight.
Currently there are two types in the market: the Argus II, and the Alpha IMS.
Argus II Vs Alpha IMS
Argus II became FDA approved in mid 2013, while Alpha IMS just recently received its European approval. While both treat blindness, the Alpha IMS prosthesis can’t treat everyone. Its use is limited to patients who lost their sight through diseases that damage the eye’s light detecting cells . So patients, who lose their sight due to neural damage, can’t really benefit from this system.
Despite that fact, Alpha IMS distinguishes itself from Argus II in that it does not rely on glasses to detect light. Instead, its system detects light coming into the eye through electrodes implanted underneath the retina. The electrodes then direct the light into a microchip that sends the signals to the brain which processes the data. This allows the patient to see black and white images. The brightness can then be adjusted via a dial placed behind the ear. The images produced have higher resolution than those of the Argus II due to the higher number of placed electrodes (1500 vs 60 in the Argus II). Argus II on the other hand, relies on a miniature external camera fitted to eyeglasses. Once the camera captures the scene, a small portable unit processes it and transforms it to instructions that are sent back to the glasses. These instructions are then wirelessly transmitted to an implant on the eye. Hence, Argus II’s disadvantage lies in the fact that the patient has to turn his head whenever he wants to look to the other side.
Though Alpha IMS’s main advantage lies in its self contained feature, Argus II and Alpha IMS are two systems that work in much the same way. The whole idea behind them lies in having a computer chip replace a damaged piece of retina. Once placed, the chip sends electrical signals to the brain which interprets them.
Also published on Medium.