Using retinal implants to restore vision to the blind
Richard Taylor, Physics
Technological adart5vances over the past few decades have transformed the concept of bionic eyes from the wild speculations of science fiction into the practicalities of science fact. With over one million people diagnosed with retinal diseases each year, the aim is to restore vision by replacing damaged rods and cones with artificial photoreceptors. Clinical trials are already under way using retinal implants based on camera chip technology. However, there are crucial differences between how the human visual system and the camera “see”. These differences arise because, while the camera uses the Euclidean shapes favoured by engineers, the eye exploits the fractal geometry that is ubiquitous throughout nature. This project investigates the advantages of fractal-based implants. These include an increase in visual acuity by over an order of magnitude, potentially allowing people to read text and facial expressions – essential capabilities for performing every day tasks. Furthermore, unlike current designs, fractal implants will trigger the physiological mechanism used by the human visual system to prevent our stress-levels from soaring. This latter effect holds crucial implications for society: the U.S. spends over $300 billion annually on stress-induced illnesses, and stress is increasingly blamed for precipitating debilitating disorders such as schizophrenia and cancer.