New technology has made it possible for people with retinal implants to read using Braille.  While it does not replace their vision, it does enable them to do more than they could before.

How Implants have Helped

Retinal implants have helped people who suffer from certain types of visual impairments to see shapes and contrasting images.  The resolution in these implants is just a few hundred pixels so things are often dull and blurry.  However, they have been in existence for some time to help people see how to do everyday activities, but they have been unable to read.

New Retina Implants Convert Letters Into Braille

Second Sight modified a retinal implant system to send signals to the retina as electrical signals.  The built-in camera translates the text into Braille, which is not affected by low resolution.

During testing, up to four letters were displayed at one time for the subject.  It would allow them to read words such as “open” and “closed.”  The test subject was able to read single letters correctly up to almost 90 percent of the time, but that percentage dropped as the length of the word grew.  However, four-letter words were read correctly about 80 percent of the time.  While it is slower than finger-reading Braille, it is faster than reading text.  Researchers expect that it will develop where the person can read up to 120 letters per minute.  While that might not sound like much to a sighted person, it could open up a new world for those who have been blind.

As the system improves, it will provide an alternative to the sight-impaired in various situations such as reading street signs and other words when they are out in public.

The system is in the early stages but is already available in areas of Europe.  If it receives FDA approval, it could be available in the US soon.

[Image via bluesci]