Feeds

Geordi LaForge video-to-brain rig built at MIT

Small Mexican pigs seem pleased with it

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

MIT boffins have devised a method of fitting a chip on the end of the optical nerve which can be used to input electronic images directly into the brain without any need for an eyeball. The technique could offer blind people a degree of vision using head-mounted camera/sensor equipment, in the style of Geordi LaForge from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The new wireless retinal nerve interface from MIT

Video straight to the brain.

The implanted chip, according to the MIT team behind it, features a "microfabricated polyimide stimulating electrode array with sputtered iridium oxide electrodes" which is implanted into the user's retina by a specially-developed surgical technique. There are also "secondary power and data receiving coils".

Once the implant is in place, wireless transmissions are made from outside the head. These induce currents in the receiving coils of the nerve chip, meaning that it needs no battery or other power supply. The electrode array stimulates the nerves feeding the optic nerve, so generating a image in the brain.

The wireless signals, for use in humans, would be generated by a glasses-style headset equipped with cameras or other suitable sensors and transmitters tuned to the coils implanted in the head.

For now, however, the system has only been tried out in Yucatan minipigs. Three of the diminutive Mexican porkers have had the Star Trek/Gibsonesque implants for seven months, but as yet it's difficult to tell just how well they work - as the pigs aren't talking. The MIT boffins have fitted them with instrumented-up contact lenses to try to get an idea of what effects the implants have.

However a new implant design which would be suitable for humans has now been developed. The development team hope to begin trials within three years. They believe that with feedback from test subjects they'll be able to refine the algorithms driving the stimulator array to give useful results - but they don't promise anything like full vision, or anyway not for a long time.

"Anything that could help the blind see a little better and let them identify objects and move around a room would be an enormous help," says Shawn Kelly of MIT's Research Laboratory for Electronics, one of the designers.

Full details of the pig trials and other tests in vitro are to be published next month under the title Development and Implantation of a Minimally Invasive Wireless Subretinal Neurostimulator in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. The article is also online here for subscribers. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Man FOUND ON MOON denies lunar alien interface
'The UFO people were very very angry with me' Buzz Aldrin tells Reddit
Would it be BAD if the Amazon rainforest was all FARMS? Well it WAS, once
Used to be all fields round here: Jungle tribesman saying
Boeing to start work on most powerful rocket ... EVER!
NASA okays start of Space Launch System after design review
'BIGGEST BIRD EVER': 21-foot ripsaw-beaked flying HORROR
Fossil avian cruised above sea like toothy ekranoplan
Help us out readers: How would you sniff and store network traffic?
Phase two of our deep desert project needs your wisdom
Boffins urge European Commission to reboot electric brain project
Billion-Euro simulated mind project criticised for narrow thinking
Beer in SPAAAACE! London Pride soars to 28,000m
Sadly, no in-flight footage of audacious stratobooze mission
World Meteorological Organization says climate data is uncool
Weather wonks call for more frequent collation of climate baselines
Going up: Fancy a virtual flight to 30km above the PLANET?
Space boffin rattles tin for immersive Oculus Rift experience
In space no one can hear you scream, but Voyager 1 can hear A ROAR
Boffins now very, very, sure craft is in interstellar space, and it's picking up 'sounds'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem
Download this brochure to find five ways HP BladeSystem can optimize your business with the power of one.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.