The FDA just gave official approval to the world’s first bionic eye! Developed by Second Sight Medical Products, the Argus II is a bionic eye that bypasses damaged rods and cones in the retina. A miniature camera housed in a pair of glasses captures a scene, and the video is processed and wirelessly transmitted to an antenna in the Argus implant. The implant then stimulates an array of 60 electrodes to send information to the brain via the optic nerve.
The Argus II already has the approval of European regulators, and the US Food and Drug Administration just gave official approval this week. Thirty people aged 28 to 77 took part in a trial of the Argus II, all of whom were completely blind. Results varied from patient to patient and ranged from small benefits to being able to read newspaper headlines or see in color. The technology is currently available in Europe for €73,000 ($99,120), and is expected to be more expensive once arriving in the US.
The Argus II has also been approved by the National Eye Institute among several other projects across the country working on a bionic eye. Notably, scientists at Stanford have a system that uses 5,000 photovoltaic cells instead of electrodes to convert light into electrical impulses. The technology has so far only been tested on rats, but scientists in France could possibly begin clinical trials this year. As science refines robotics, we may soon find ourselves using engineering as a valuable medical tool.