November 22, 2012

Reading visual braille with a retinal prosthesis

Retinal prostheses, which restore partial vision to patients blinded by outer retinal degeneration, are currently in clinical trial. The Argus II retinal prosthesis system was recently awarded CE approval for commercial use in Europe. While retinal prosthesis users have achieved remarkable visual improvement to the point of reading letters and short sentences, the reading process is still fairly cumbersome. This study investigates the possibility of using an epiretinal prosthesis to stimulate visual braille as a sensory substitution for reading written letters and words. The Argus II retinal prosthesis system, used in this study, includes a 10 × 6 electrode array implanted epiretinally, a tiny video camera mounted on a pair of glasses, and a wearable computer that processes the video and determines the stimulation current of each electrode in real time.