You may have seen the video of a man who sees his wife for the first time in years through the use of the Argus II, a so-called bionic eye. Dr. Robert Greenberg, CEO of Second Sight, worked for 25 years to make that one recorded moment possible.
Greenberg is the man behind the Argus II, which is designed to help patients with retinal pigmentosa -- a degenerative disease that leads to blindness -- to have some form of vision. The system received FDA approval in 2013; Greenberg received 300 issue patents of technology in the process.
First, in an outpatient procedure, patients are implanted with a small device that sits on their retinas. The passive device is only activated when the patients wear the corresponding glasses, which has a camera. Then, when the glasses are on, the signal from the camera gets turned into electrical impulses on a patient’s eye. These impulses allow the patient sees a spot of light corresponding to what’s in front of them.
Dr. Greenberg says the resulting image is low-resolution and in grayscale, though he has figured out how to produce color and says the device could be upgradeable. He compares it to lights on a scoreboard or pixels on a monitor.
More than 100 people have used the device, which retails for just under $145,000 (plus surgery and physicians fees), and the responses are universally positive. “We hear many stories about being able to see a loved one again and move about independently,” he says.