Second Sight Develops Bionic Eye That can See Braille

January 3, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Second Sight, who placed a bionic eye in the market, have come up with a new way through which blind people would be able to read braille. The organization developed the Argus II retinal prosthetic which has brought a revolutionary turn in the field of ophthalmology.

According to the primary tests, blind people who have been implanted, will be able to read signs and short sections of text.

Patients who are diagnosed with eye diseases like retinitis pigmentosa can use Second Sight’s prosthetic for better vision. The Argus II makes use of a camera, which is placed on the wearer’s face, to capture images.


There is an electrode array implanted in the eye, and the images captured by the camera are converted into electrical signals that are transmitted to the electrode array. This stimulates nerves in various sections of the retina, which in turn gives the wearer a real-time replay of the world.

While the prosthetic would allow the wearer to see better, their vision would be fuzzy. So, it would be a tough job to make out letters on boards and signs.

That’s why Second Sight searched for a solution that would enable blind people to read better. And what they have come up with is to stimulate the electrodes in a way that would give the pattern in Braille letters instead of the standard text.

To use this method, the video processing section of the Argus II will be replaced with a Braille visualizer that will convert alphabets into the corresponding Braille dots. So the wearer would see the Braille dots instead of the actual lettering.

A Second Sight team, led by Thomas Lauritzen, conducted the first tests of the system. In a patient implanted with Argus II, they activated a section of the electrode array to stimulate the nerves to give a visual perception of ‘seeing’ Braille letters.

The patient, who suffers from blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa, could recognize single letters 89 percent of the time, as well as short words. Currently the time taken to recognize Braille letters is a little longer that reading them off a page with fingers.

But the team of researchers are positive in finding a way to speed up the process, and they expect to reach speeds of 120 letters a minute.

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