back to article Geordi LaForge video-to-brain rig built at MIT

MIT boffins have devised a method of fitting a chip on the end of the optical nerve which can be used to input electronic images directly into the brain without any need for an eyeball. The technique could offer blind people a degree of vision using head-mounted camera/sensor equipment, in the style of Geordi LaForge from Star …


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  1. Graham Marsden

    "microfabricated polyimide stimulating electrode array with sputtered iridium oxide electrodes"

    Can I get fries with that...?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the pigs are talking..

    but they should have invented the universal translator first.

  3. Mark Rogers


    How much fun are people gonna have going through airport security with one of those implanted in them.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    For f*** sake, there is _PLENTY_ of means to connect such an internal sensor to an external camera without any of the wireless malarkey. The power needs to be supplied via a cable anyway so there will always be a cable from the camera and into the prosthetic.

    Not using wired under the circumstances is a clear case of techno-mast*rbation. It limits the bandwidth of the overall system, makes it complex and prone to failure. Otherwise, it is an excellent idea that can change the lives of many people to the better.

  5. Piers

    I feel sorry for the pigs...

    ..who had no choice in the matter.

  6. Brutus


    RTFA you pillock!

    The prosthetic is powered by induction. No cables.

  7. Filippo Silver badge

    AC fails at reading

    The article explicitly states that the chip requires no battery or power supply, as the current is generated by induction from the external equipment. No cables. Which is a very nice achievement, as it avoids creating a nasty point of entry for infections.

  8. .stu
    Thumb Up

    @AC FAIL = you

    The power is supplied via induction, and the whole "wireless malarky" is to avoid the risk of infection which would accompany a wire going through the skin.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Practical use

    Can they wire it up to see through pretty ladies' clothes?

  10. Bassey

    Deja vu

    Such systems have been around for a couple of years and have been tried out on people. I'm sure the "microfabricated polyimide stimulating electrode array with sputtered iridium oxide electrodes" is new, but there has been a system that stimulates a basic image using a (IIRC) 8X8 pixel array for some time and there was talk of that going up to 16X16 - all in black and white mind.

    Again, all off the top of my head, but the system I've seen was basically an 8X8 CMOS implanted into the optic nerve using an array of 8X8 probes.

    It's unclear from the article exactly how this new system improves upon the existing systems or what has happened to those?

  11. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    I think the whole point here is that wires AREN'T required to the internal implant - as stated in the article:

    "Once the implant is in place, wireless transmissions are made from outside the head. These induce currents in the receiving coils of the nerve chip, meaning that it needs no battery or other power supply."

    Rather than making the device more complex and prone to failure, this actually makes it less complex (not requiring an internal power source / external power source and wires) and reduces the risk of infection from the surgery involved, as it means that no path is required between the implant and the 'outside world' to run wires through, which would, presumably, provide a route for bacteria to enter the eyeball.

    The real problems with such devices are those of rejection and inactivation. The human body has a tendency to try to expel foreign objects and the electrodes used to stimulate nerves tend to wear out or become encapsulated by the body so that they can no longer directly cause stimulation. There was an excellent article on these issues in New Scientist magazine a few months ago. I'd provide a link if I could be bothered to find the article in question, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    the bit on the end of the ropey bit that's connected to the squashy bit

    "nerves feeding the optic nerve, so generating a image in the brain."

    So I assume it requires the use of a fully intact optical nerve and also a fully functional visual cortex to make sense of it all, which can only mean the device is only of benefit to those with damaged eyeballs only.

    Still, mega cool though, Ghost in the Shell here we come!

  13. this

    microfabricated polyimide stimulating electrode array with sputtered iridium oxide electrodes

    ...because you're worth it.

  14. Aremmes
    Big Brother

    Minority Report

    I'd hope that the glasses and implant would be keyed so that the implant would only accept signals from the appropriate set of glasses. How long until someone starts blasting video signals from a hidden high-power transmitter into a person's implants to inject adverts into the field of view?

  15. Pyros

    Induction isn't new.

    Cochlear implants are powered the same way, for quite a few years now. (Who do you think is getting one? I'm just waiting on the approval of the funding, the doohickey ain't cheap.)

    The only difference is that the body has less chance of rejecting the implant, as it's inserted into the hollow cochlear, as opposed to directly on the nerve cells. (And even then that's not stopping them from doing the same thing on the audiological nerves as an improvement/bypass for cochlear implants.)

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Not telling the whole story

    It's worth noting that the Human eye is a lot more complex than a simple "pixel" array. The eye itself is effectively an outgrowth of the brain and as such performs neural processing. Fibres in the optic nerve don't just relay luminosity/colour data but rather information, such as "movement to the left" for example. There's only a small cluster of photoreceptors in the fovea that have a one to one correspondence with fibres in the optic nerve (100 million photoreceptors converge to about one million fibres in the optic nerve).

    The real challenge is not sending signals down the optic nerve but figuring out how to target the right fibres with the right data (knowing that you've never approach normal vision).

    Also, if the visual centres of the brain are not stimulated from birth they quickly become incapable of functioning as such, even if vision is restored (if you don't use it, you loose it).

  17. subflux


    Once it's video protocol is reverse-engineered someone'll ovveride the cameras and send video into thier brains from the interTubes with their pringles-tube cantennae.

  18. Mike Westmacott 1

    Moorfields Eye hospital is already there!

    Moorfields Eye hospital in London has already completed successful trials of implants in humans which have photoreceptors and which transmit to the fovea. I don't believe this particular device supported external input, but I presume that's a trivial (!) change to make.

  19. Stu Pid

    I for one...

    Welcome our minimally invaded wireless subretinal neurostimulated overlords.

  20. 4HiMarks

    vision upgrade

    So when will it reach the stage where a sighted person can get an infrared or X-ray vision "supplemental" implant? The external cameras ought to be able to be designed for any wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, not just visible light. You might have to switch them for different uses, but it should effectively be no different than putting on sunglasses when one steps outside.

    The boffin, becasue it looks like he's wearing X-ray spex...

  21. Bilgepipe

    Ahh yes

    "microfabricated polyimide stimulating electrode array with sputtered iridium oxide electrodes"

    Ahh yes, they used the old sputtered iridium oxide trick - exactly what I would have done.

  22. Richard 102
    Paris Hilton

    In the words of Alf

    "Nice underwear, Kate."

    (What, you gotta ask?)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    hopefully they will get it to work

    It should help some folks...I don't much think I would want to be either blind or deaf.. Good on them.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    "I feel sorry for the pigs"

    Yeah, me too, now pass the bacon sarnies...

  25. Anonymous Coward

    research is incremental and ongoing

    > The real challenge is not sending signals down the optic nerve but figuring out how to target the right fibres with the right data (knowing that you've never approach normal vision).

    Yes, and work is already underway on what kind of processing to interpose between the sensor and the nerve input, which has had some promising results (don't have the ref handy)--IIRC the neurobiology of visual perception is better understood than most other cognitive capabilities.

    > Also, if the visual centres of the brain are not stimulated from birth they quickly become incapable of functioning as such, even if vision is restored (if you don't use it, you lose it).

    Still, lots and lots of people (such as members of my immediate family) dealing with vision *loss* are eagerly awaiting the practical applications of this research (realizing that they're not arriving any time soon). Including a friend of mine who was blinded as a child when someone threw battery acid at his face. People are blind for all sorts of reasons ...

  26. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Spinning Porkies

    Ok .... who's going to be first politically incorrect ingrate to suggest that a psychologically flawed, one eyed scottish idiot be a suitable pioneering, save the world, human test subject for beta vision?

  27. Martin Nicholls


    "Not using wired under the circumstances is a clear case of techno-mast*rbation"

    Or maybe given that the thing is attached to your optice nerve..

    Do I really have to spoonfeed the answer by pointing out if you dropped the wire (that would look great sticking out your eye socket) bad things would happen if it got caught up and whatnot.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good news...

    for me as i will likly be blind in 10 years or so.

  29. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    @Graham Marsden


  30. Pete 8


    iPhone connector socket could be wedged onto the end of the optic nerve using sputtered beer solution in a social vacuum, then the user could not only see >1Mpx, jerky video, but also be able to hum a tune for 99c, navigate and select things by shaking and flicking head and...

    <Blink here to download>

    Add a new meaning to carrier "tethering'.

    RotM: a cyborg wearing some cute meat accessories is still a cyborg!

    Mines the one with the "ThoughtStore" url in the pocket.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Know what you're missing?

    Paris because soon even the blind will have seen her internet debut.

  32. Graham Bartlett

    "Difficult to tell how they work"? Not really

    "as yet it's difficult to tell just how well they work - as the pigs aren't talking"

    Remove both eyes from pig. Replace with these gadgets. See whether pig can navigate an obstacle course. Job done.

  33. This post has been deleted by its author

  34. H 5


    Damnit now where have i left my eyes again?

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