New technology for patients with retinal pigmentosis attaches directly to retina to stimulate nerves.
Engineers at Second Sight, the manufacturing company that made the Argus II retinal prosthetic, have designed a device letting blind people see Braille.
The breakthrough is a modification of the Argus II, which uses glasses with a built-in camera, a processor to convert the camera’s signal into electrical stimulation, and a microchip with electrodes connected directly to a person’s retina.
The technology, built for people with retinal pigmentosis, which causes people to lose the use of their retina but to still have working neurons, can take up to 10 seconds to translate a letter and many minutes for a person to read a single word.
However, in a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroprosthetics, a research team led by Thomas Lauritzen bypassed the camera and directly stimulated the retina.
“Instead of feeling the Braille on the tip of his fingers, the patient could see the patterns we projected and then read individual letters in less than a second with up to 89% accuracy,” says Lauritzen in a press release.
The patient could also recognize 80% of two-letter words, 60% of three-letter words, and 70% of four-letter words.
Although a person who is fluent in Braille can read more words per minute than the device allows, it will help blind patients read words without Braille translations, such as on signs in public places.