There are nearly 40 million people who have blindness and another 124 million who have low vision problems. With so many afflicted with vision issues, it’s no wonder why innovators have been long pursuing ways to restore or even augment natural eyesight into a higher-performing, more efficient, or even super-human vision. This would only be accomplished with the development of a so-call bionic eye or bionic eye implants.
The goal of bionic eye scientists is to develop technology that’s as effective for people with little to poor vision as cochlear implants have become for those who have hearing difficulties. However, bionic eye technology is still in its infancy when compared to audio implant technology for hearing disabilities.
Bionic Eyes are Different than Prosthetic Eyes
A bionic eye is not the same as a prosthetic eye. Prosthetic eyes sometimes called “glass eyes,” replace the physical structure and appearance of an eye that has been removed because of an accident, disease, or traumatic event.
Bionic eyes are mechanical and computational devices meant to give vision to the brain acting as a surrogate eye. Bionic eye implants, however, work on the existing eye structure to help augment vision in the damaged or impaired eye. Bionic implants are designed to achieve vision functionality over aesthetics and cosmetic reasons.
Currently, retinal implants are the only approved available bionic eyes. However, cornea transplants and cataract surgery can replace the cornea and lens if these structures are clouded or are incapable of focusing light for other reasons.
Limitations of Bionic Eyes
Although specific bionic eye systems enable people to discern light, movement, and shapes, this technology is still limited and cannot restore sight 100%. This is mainly because the current implant has only 60 electrodes, to mimic the sight of a human eye, you would need about a million electrodes.
The Future of Bionic Eyes
Researchers are trying to add more functionalities by increasing the number of electrodes to produce a higher quality of eyesight within bionic devices. Future implants will most likely feature a more functional vision for people who are blind. It also may be possible that bionic eyes can produce some degree of color vision. The key to higher quality vision within bionic eyes is a device that bypasses the retina and stimulates the brain directly. Read more about bionic eyesight here.