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Researchers Hope to Mime 1000 Neurons With High-Res Artificial Retina

The first prosthetic retina that would allow users to recognize faces

3 min read

19 December 2008—Researchers from three major California universities are working on an artificial retina that could give limited sight to people with degenerative diseases of the retina, such as macular degeneration. Such a prosthesis is a more realistic future treatment than stem-cell therapy, gene therapy, or eye transplants, its developers say. The Californian researchers have been treating people using a 60-pixel retina in a clinical trial for two years. But they are now gunning for a system with a resolution of 1000 pixels, they reported Tuesday at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), in San Francisco. And in contrast with systems in trials today, the researchers hope to develop a system that would be completely sealed into the eye, without any external components.

James Weiland, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southern California’s Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems (BMES) Engineering Research Center, reported on an experimental system that includes a 1000-pixel test chip. He expects to have the high-res retina at a point where they can begin clinical trials in about five years.

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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
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

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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