Due to various diseases including cancer, many people become blind. It really is a sad story, however, it is their eyes that cause the issue and not their visual cortex. In this way, their visual cortex which is part of the brain is completely fine and undamaged, but as there is no information coming in from the eyes, it holds no use for the person. This, however, is not the case anymore. Through an amazing medical trial, 6 people who were blind are now able to partially see. The device that helps achieve this is called Orion. It takes pictures from a camera and inputs them directly into the brain, acting as the eyes for the person.
Doctors believe that this is a ray of hope for those who are completely blind and have lost their eyesight due to a disease or accident. They believe that if the camera completely erases the purpose of the eyes, it could lead to many more opportunities for people who cannot see.
Orion is made up of 2 parts. It includes an implant within the person’s brain and a pair of glasses which contain the camera. The camera in the glasses takes pictures and sends information to 60 electrodes which are placed in the implant within the brain. These electrodes process information and present it to the visual cortex. This then shows the blind person a partial image of what is in front of them. Meaning the device removes the need for natural eyesight.
For testing the device, researchers used a computer. They first chose completely blind people and showed them a black screen on a computer with a white square, which moved within a random pattern. They would then ask them to point at the square at whatever position it was at. They pointed at the correct place, making scientists believe their invention truly worked.
It is believed that the square which was shown to the patients may just be the beginning. If they were to introduce many more electrodes within the brain, they would be able to create a proper image, which would show the blind person everything around them. What they aim to do is use the reference of a style of painting. When you paint tiny thousands of spots, they come together and represent a full picture – this could be done in the brain too. When electrodes are stimulating thousands of places in the brain while the camera is feeding the information, there is potential that a proper image may be created in the same way as a painting.
Even the way the device is at the moment, it really has the potential of changing lives.