Story at a glance:

  • The Argus II gives those living with blindness limited vision.
  • It is an artificial retina that may one day allow blind users to see colors and brightness.
  • AI technology is a possibility.

Researchers at the University of Southern California at the Keck School of Medicine have created a “bionic eye” for those who lost their sight from degenerative eye diseases.

The Argus II is a microscopic supercomputer implanted into people who have visually impaired eyes. The premise of the device is to help them recognize shapes and patterns, giving them the ability to partially see once more, a newsletter at USC reads.


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Millions of people worldwide face the loss of eyesight from the degenerative eye diseases. For example, 1 in 4,000 people are affected by the genetic disorder retinitis pigmentosa.

The Argus II acts as the world’s first artificial retina.

“Our goal now is to develop systems that truly mimic the complexity of the retina,” Gianluca Lazzi, a Provost Professor of Ophthalmology and Electrical Engineering at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, said. 

Back in 2013, the Food and Drug Administration legally approved the device, and a prototype was demonstrated on The New York Times’s video podcast.

Eight years later, Lazzi and his university colleagues are more confident about their product, having made progress in their recent studies of the retina using an advanced computer model. In their experiment, they managed to reproduce shapes and positions by arranging nerve cells in the eyes. 

“Things that we couldn’t even see before, we can now model,” Lazzi said.

The Argus II works by stimulating the nerve fiber without disturbing its neighboring cells. The team is testing an electrical stimulation waveform that could add colors and hue temperature to the mix.

The developers are also talking about adding artificial intelligence (AI) to the Argus II down the pipeline.


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Published on May 05, 2021