Bionic eyes now available

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“Gentlemen, we can rebuilt him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man.”

That quote from the 1970s television show “The Six Billion Dollar Man” almost rings true with recent news of an electronic eye being implanted in a man who lost his vision due to illness.

The man, Allen Zderad, was diagnosed with a degenerative medical ailment called retinitis pigmentosa, which eventually took his eyesight.

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Even though he lost his ability to see, he continued his passion for woodworking by simply using his sense of touch and ability to discern the placement of objects in his surroundings.

But this month medical personnel were able to provide him with a new method of sight, however it’s nowhere near as advanced or clear as the devices depicted in the television show or in science fiction movies.

In fact, Zderad has to use several devices connected together just to be able to see the outlines of people and objects.

His device bypasses the retina, instead sending light immediately to the optic nerve. However, before it gets there it’s captured by a camera mounted on a special set of glasses, which then sends the signal to a small computer worn by Zderad on a belt pack. In essence the light is processed by the camera, then the computer then the microchip attached to his optic nerve and then his brain.

His vision is not what nature provides, and certainly not as advanced as it could be hopefully in the near future. It’s actually described as 60 points of light similar to what a scoreboard at a sporting event would produce.

While he will not be able to see details with this robotic eye, it’s encouraging successful prosthetics are providing some sense of sight.

As with all technology, advances in the devices may someday be able to simulate what nature provides, and possibly even more.