Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wired: "Retinal Implant Restores Vision in Blind Mice"

"A new type of prosthetic eye may someday allow blind people to seamlessly see the broad sweep of an ocean or the dimples in a baby’s face. The approach, presented Nov. 13 at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, may benefit the estimated 25 million people worldwide who have lost sight due to retinal diseases.

“This is a spectacular example of what we all hoped to be able to do,” said Jonathan Victor, a computational-systems neuroscientist who was not involved in the new work. “It’s a solution to an abstract problem” that could be useful in many kinds of systems.

Sheila Nirenberg and Chethan Pandarinath, both of Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, tested their new retinal prosthetic in blind mice and found that it allowed the mice to see a baby’s face.

Current prosthetics are limited to reproducing simple features, such as bright spots or edges, but miss much of a scene. Many scientists are intent on boosting the retinal prosthetics’ power, so that the message from the artificial eye to the brain is stronger. But Nirenberg’s work suggests that a second, underappreciated area is also important: the pattern of cell activity in the retina, something she called “a big problem lurking in the background."

Wired - Retinal Implant Restores Vision in Blind Mice

It's not really privacy, but it is technology, and visualisation related. The technology and research involved in understanding how people see will eventually find its way into facial recognition heuristics and related technologies, so this has implications for all those closed circuit TV cameras mounted around all those cities.

It also puts us one step closer to implanted chips that can talk to peoples brains and sensory receptor cells.

Help blind people = good. Help dictatorships spy on their people = bad. Two potential sides to one technology.

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Picture credit: clipart.com

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