Researchers at UCLA Health have surgically implanted blind patients with the Second Sight Orion device to improve their visual perception.
The Orion device is designed to boost the ability to navigate by restoring their ability to perceive objects and movement. The device converts images captured by a tiny video camera on top of sunglasses into electrical pulses.
“This is the first time that we’ve had a completely implantable device that people can go home with and use in their own living conditions without having to be plugged into an external device,” ULCA Health neurosurgeon and principal investigator on the study Dr. Nader Pouratian said in a news release. “It helps them recognize, for example, where a doorway is, where the sidewalk begins or ends or where the crosswalk is. These are all extremely meaningful events that can help improve their quality of life.”
Second Sight’s Orion is designed for people who were sighted but now live in complete blackness. The device helps those patients distinguish light from dark to regain visual perception and independence in daily tasks such as sorting laundry.
“There are little white dots on a black background, like looking up at the stars at night,” Jason Esterhuizen, the second person to receive the implant, said. “I might see three little dots as a person is walking toward me. As they get closer to me, more and more dots light up.”
The more frequently patients use the device, the more they will understand what each flicker of light represents, according to the researchers.
Pouratian and the researcher hope to expand the capabilities of the device to allow more people to benefit from it and to include people who were born blind.