Retina Implant AG in Germany conducted their first human clinical trial of a subretinal implant put into 11 patients who had gradually lost their eyesight to retinitis pigmentosa (which affects ~200K people worldwide). The implant is a 3 mm microchip with 1,500 pixels intended to give patients a 12 degree field of view. The implant was successful in 7 of the 11 patients. The most dramatic difference was seen in the 11th patient, who had the only implant that was placed directly in the macular region of the retina:
“I first noticed my eyesight was impaired at 16, and over a period of 16-17 years, my condition deteriorated to complete blindness,” said the 11th patient, a 45 year-old Finland-based male. […] “When the microchip was turned on, I immediately was able to distinguish light from dark and see outlines of objects. As I got used to the implant, my vision improved dramatically. I was able to form letters into words, even correcting the spelling of my name. I recognized foreign objects such as a banana and could distinguish between a fork, knife and spoon. Most impressively, I could recognize the outlines of people and differentiate heights and arm movements from 20 feet away.” [BusinessWire via Endgadget]
He refused to have the implant removed at the end of the study. And it’s going to be hard for them to take the implant away now, since he can see them coming. Wakka wakka wakka.
Unfortunately for the dogs in the banner pic, this implant is developed for humans. Better luck next year, Max, Abby, Rico, Sadie, and Paco. Awww, it’s sadder when I give them names.