An eye-implanted chip from Retina Implant has restored patients’ ability to discern light during its latest trial, according to German researchers.
The device works in a similar fashion to the newly FDA approved Argus II retinal prosthesis to return limited vision in patients with photoreceptor cell diseases like retinitis pigmentosa.
Unlike that system, however, light is picked up via 1,500 pixels on a retinal implant instead of an eyeglass-mounted camera. The signal is boosted by a coil implanted in skin behind the ear and sent back to so-called bipolar cells still active on the retina, which in turn send an image to the brain through regular neural circuits. A small battery mounted behind the ear — the only external sign of the device — contains controls for brightness and contrast.
The recent trial let 8 out of 9 patients see in varying degrees, with three in the study even able to read letters and see the faces of family members. Given that the Argus II finally crossed the FDA’s bionic eye barrier, hopefully we won’t have to wait nearly as long for research like this to become a product.
The FCC approves consumer electronics devices for the masses, but what about the FDA? Well, they make sure that all things medical are fit for public service, and the latest candidate to gain approval from this regulatory board is the first robot doctor developed by iRobot. Wait a minute here, doesn’t iRobot churn out Roombas? Yup, that is correct, and the robot doctor in question here is the RP-VITA that comes in the form of a telepresence robot. It will rely on a large display with an iPad interface to enable a doctor to examine a patient remotely, and it works swell in pre-op and post-op situations, not to mention during surgery as well.
This FDA clearance is significant, since it proves that a robot is able to move about safely and independently through a fast-paced, chaotic and demanding hospital , and would also mark a rather significant technological milestone for the robotics and healthcare industries.
The RP-VITA is currently on sale by InTouch Health, where it will fall under the guise of the company’s latest flagship remote presence device. iRobot has plans to explore adjacent market opportunities for similar robots, and we do wonder what other kinds of medical robots are on their way.