Advances in technology are too often in the news for the bizarre and almost dystopian applications they bring with them. However, on occasion, we get to see wholesome and encouraging uses, like this.
A study published early this month by The Journal of Clinical Investigation called, "Visual percepts evoked with an Intracortical 96-channel microelectrode array inserted in human occipital cortex" has rightly attracted some media interest.
Berna Gomez, a 58-year-old biology teacher, developed a severe, degenerative condition that destroyed the optic nerves between her eyes and her brain, rendering Gomez blind. Since 2018, however, she has been a part of a high-tech clinical trial in which a tiny 4mm by 4mm electrode was implanted in the visual sector of her brain.
The medical article's abstract stated, "A long-held dream of scientists is to transfer information directly to the visual cortex of blind individuals, thereby restoring a rudimentary form of sight. However, no clinically available cortical visual prosthesis yet exists." On this charge, they have had some success.
By using purpose-built glasses, Gomez has been given some of her sight back. The glasses have a built-in video camera that also scans objects it picks up, sending the information to the electrode in the brain. This has managed to allow Gomez to distinguish shapes and lines, and she was able to identify several letters of the alphabet. The sight restored is basic so far, but this feels an important step that could see the marrying of our industry with impactful scientific advancement.