While more research and development is still needed, millions of people who have lost their sight may have hope of regaining it through a tiny eye implant that uses technology similar to that of a digital camera.
The 5mm device would work by translating light into electrical impulses and stimulating the retina, tricking the brain into believing it was receiving input from a working eye. Researchers say they are still five to 10 years away from a model that could be fitted to a human eye.
Dr. Keith Mathieson, leader of the Glasgow team, says, "The device would contain an imaging detector with hundreds of pixels coupled to an array of microscopic stimulating electrodes. If light forms an image on the detector, then the result will be electrical stimulation of the retina in the shape of this image. The stimulated cells then send the information via the optic nerve to the brain."
The prototype implant has 100 pixels, but the researchers hope that they will be able to increase this number over time. Mathieson said that 500 pixels would be sufficient for people to see where they are going and to recognize faces.
"We are trying to get to the point where someone would no longer need a guide dog, rather than replicate perfect vision," he said. He added that features such as action replay and slow motion could be included in the technology in the far future.