World first as blind man reads braille with his EYES, using revolutionary implant

by CLAIRE BATES, Mail Online  |  published on November 23, 2012


A blind man has been able to read braille with his eyes rather than by touch using a revolutionary device, say scientists.

In a world first, researchers streamed the letter patterns to an implant at the back of the patient’s eye. This allowed him to ‘see’ words that he could interpret in seconds with almost 90 per cent accuracy.

The development could revolutionise how degenerative eye diseases are treated and help thousands of patients in the UK.

It builds on technology already licensed in Britain, which uses a small camera mounted on a pair of glasses along with a retina implant made up of a grid of 60 electrodes.

A processor on the glasses translates the camera signal into light patterns that – when sent to the implant – allows the patient to see rough outlines of objects.

Although the Argus II system works to a point, patients have found it impractical for reading, as words need to be in large font and can take minutes to interpret.

So researchers at the Californian company Second Sight came up with an alternative. Braille letters are made up using different raised patterns on a six dot cell. The researchers realised they could therefore bypass the camera by simply stimulating six of the 60 electrodes directly, allowing the blind person to ‘see’ the patterns.

Research leader, Dr Thomas Lauritzen, said: ‘Instead of feeling the braille on the tips of his fingers, the patient could see the patterns we projected and then read individual letters in less than a second with up to 89 per cent accuracy.

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