"Bionic Eye" Implants Will Hit the U.S. Market This Year

FDA approves implant that restores sight to the blind

1 min read
"Bionic Eye" Implants Will Hit the U.S. Market This Year

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Today's the kind of day when you can see the future. Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment that can restore (limited) eyesight to (some) blind people. Despite the caveats, it's an exciting milestone.

The treatment involves electrodes implanted in the eyes of people whose retinas are damaged. The FDA approved the implants for people with severe cases of retinitis pigmentosa, a relatively small patient population. But the company that makes the implants, Second Sight Medical Products, says they can benefit a much broader group of people with vision problems, including many elderly people who suffer from macular degeneration. 

IEEE Spectrum covered the technology in "Birth of the Bionic Eye." Click through to that article for all the technical details of how the retinal implant system works, and what the experience of wearing one was like for one test subject, Barbara Campbell (pictured at right).

That article was part of our "Top Tech 2012" special report based on Second Sight's optimistic predictions that it would win FDA approval for the implants in the year 2012. So the company is a couple of months behind schedule in the United States, but its implants have been on the market in Europe since 2011. 

Second Sight isn't the only company working on retinal prostheses. We've also described a competing technology from the German company Retina Implant AG, whose system was undergoing clinical trials last year.

Photos: Second Sight, David Yellin 

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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