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  January 23, 2014
Sight Seeing

Israeli Researchers Develop Bionic Contact Lens for the Congenitally Blind

By Eye² Staff

Google made news last week with its announcement that it is developing a contact lens that can measure glucose levels in the tears of diabetics. But Google's scientists aren't the only ones who see contact lenses as a vehicle for new health care technology.

Researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel have devised a system that uses a tiny camera to capture visual information and transmit signals to a bionic contact lens. The contact lens, which is embedded with special electrodes, would stimulate corneal nerve endings, enabling people who are born blind as a result of a non-functioning retina to "see."

According to a paper published last year in the journal "Optical Engineering," the system relies on non-retinal stimulus to generate input to the brain of blind people to substitute for damage or loss of retinal input. The researchers said they are developing "a device consisting of a contact lens delivering point mechanical or electrical stimulating of the corneal nerves and a camera mounted on a spectacles frame which wirelessly transmit processed image to the contact lens, translating the visual information into tactile sensation." They said that applying time "multiplexing super resolving concepts" such as those used in remote sensing cameras… may enable imaging resolution comparable to the resolution obtainable by regular vision." The resolution would be significantly better than the approximately 10 by 10 pixels matrix that is currently being realized through implanting an eye-mounted camera and trying to create an interface with the retina or the brain's visual system, they said.

The accompanying illustration shows (a) A general schematic sketch of the constructed prototypes. (b) A schematic sketch of the spectacles with the installed imaging camera. (c) A schematic sketch of the contact lens with the stimulation electrodes.

Source: Optical Engineering; Bar-Ilan University

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