Can Agilent Help the Blind to See?

The 1990s television show “Star Trek: The Next Generation” featured a chief engineer named Geordi La Forge.  Blind since birth, La Forge used a Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement (VISOR).  This electronic device detected signals across the electromagnetic spectrum and transmitted them directly to the brain, enabling the character to “see.”

Star Trek took place in a fictitious 24th century, but an actual VISOR may be much closer to reality.  Ongoing research could someday help restore or provide partial vision to those affected by eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa.  The work is being done jointly by the University of Utah, the University of Southern California and North Carolina State University.

The technology uses an eyeglass-mounted external camera that captures images.  Light is converted into an electronic signal that is passed to the subject’s retinal cells using telemetry.  So far, subjects are able to distinguish light and dark, tell when someone is approaching, recognize shapes and even discern numbers and letters.  The researchers are using Agilent oscilloscopes, arbitrary waveform generators and a vector network analyzer.

Looking 15 years or so into the future, Utah’s Dr. Gianluca Lazzi envisions a solution than can be built into the human eye.  As Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say, “Make it so!”

This information is for research purposes only.  It is not intended for any use in diagnostic procedures.

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