Jason Easterhusen lost his vision as a result of a car accident in 2011 at the age of 23. A few months ago, he agreed to an experiment to install a bionic eye system called Orion.
Technically, the device looks like sunglasses equipped with a camera. The recorded image is processed and converted into electrical impulses, and the implanted chip sends them to the brain.
Easterhusen is one of six people in the world using Orion, and the first to receive the ability to see. According to the man, he was able to make out the candles on his birthday cake and the oncoming lane at his home.
Orion, the latest product from biotechnology startup Second Sight, fixes a key problem with previous bionic eyes. The electrodes in past prostheses were located in the back of the orbit, which means that they worked only if some of the cells of the biological eye were still alive. Now there is no need for this – the new system sends impulses directly to the brain.
“For the system we are testing, you don’t even need eyes for the device to function properly,” said Nader Puratyan, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles, who implanted Orion to Easterhausen.
Easterhausen said the risks associated with unsafe brain surgery have paid for themselves, and now he feels safer in everyday life.
According to OneZero, the Orion system does not allow people to distinguish between color and the clear outline of objects, but people can distinguish light from darkness, recognize moving objects and have some degree of depth perception. People and objects for them look like points of light.
“It’s not that the system helps people become full-fledged, but if you don’t see anything, then the opportunity to see at least a little becomes extremely valuable,” says Puratyan.
Scientists at Stanford are currently developing a more sophisticated bionic eye system. According to them, it will allow a person not only to distinguish objects, but even read.