This machine creates artificial vision for the blind
What the Future
Imagine you're completely blind, but your brain and visual cortex work fine.
The ability to perceive and decipher images is intact.
If only there was a way to capture and transmit those images directly to your brain.
That's where the Orion visual cortical prosthesis system comes in.
It's a working artificial vision prototype being tested right now in six blind individuals who are helping researchers develop a new kind of machine-assisted vision.
So this is a protoype of the Orion system.
Here we have the Camera, the video camera that captures the scene in front of the patient.
The signal goes down this cable to the video processing unit, also called the VP where the patient can adjust some of the parameters of what they're seeing.
Things like contrast brightness and perhaps zoom.
Image get processed here and then is sent back up the cable,
Over to the transmitting antenna right here.
So this antenna transmits the signal to the implant inside the head.
Not only does it transmit data but it also transmits power.
So the implant doesn't need to have a battery.
So the signal from the glasses is received by this coil here, this antenna and it goes to the hermetic package here.
This is where the electronics are the decode that signal And then provide the stimulation pulses that go down this cable to the electrode array.
The electrode array is implanted on the medial cortex, right there, between the two halves of the brain.
To learn how the Orion implant gets inside a person's head, I visited UCLA were four of the six Orion surgeries took place.>> Leading up to the surgery.
I think one of the most important parts are spending time with the patient or the research subject so that they really understand what the goals of the surgery are and what the goals of the trial are.
Since this is the first in human.
This image is going to show us a few things.
One is the incisions that we were doing.
Initially, the incisions a little bit smaller now, but that's basically the type of exposure that we need.
We pull the skin down in order to look at the skulls.
You could see the bone right here.
We've carved out a small area of the skull here.
We've opened up the dura, so this is the dura that's flapped this way.
And this is actually the space going between the two hemispheres, or the two halves of the brain.
And so we see the Orion implant sliding down in between the two halves of the brain where the Orion goes on the visual cortices.
Once the implant is in position it requires a thorough and complex calibration, which involves making adjustments to each electrode individually and mapping where they can be seen in the subject's field of vision.
It was during this calibration that one of the six subjects had a serious adverse event.
The only such event described in Orion's 12 month result summary.
Which was released back in June.
One subject had a seizure.
The seizure resolved fairly quickly and did not require overnight stay or anything like that.
Seizures are one of the risks that we have always been concerned about when we were coming up with the concept and the design for this device.
We know from other neurosurgical procedures that when you stimulate the surface of the brain that you're at risk for seniors.
That's kind of the main thing that we watch out for when we're kind of what we call fitting.
Doing a fitting and adjusting all the parameters is make sure that we're not getting too much stimulation to cause a senior.
After the device has been properly set up, Orion users can finally start learning how to make use of their new found artificial vision.>>Do you first turn it on,it can be a little bit intimidating or overwhelming because it's a lot of flashing lights and it's not like the vision they had before.
60 spots of white unevenly distributed across a dark field, right?
And so we've got to take those spots and use those to construct a version of the image that is being captured by the video camera on their glasses.
We'll actually have someone from Second Sight who will go out to their home, and spend time with him around their house.
They'll spend time with him outside or walking around the block, teaching them how to do things like they have to move their head like this cuz you want the camera to scan and see, a wider visual field in front of you.
So they'll teach them to scan Teach him how to move around the house how to find the refrigerator door.
So we work with them over this extended period of time, basically teach them how to use their new position.
We're over a year into it for most of the people that we've implanted and they're still learning how to use it as best as possible, but they're using it on a daily basis.
You could find a window, you can find a doorway.
One gentleman even took our artificial vision trainer to a local bar and could find the cue ball, and the stike ball, and the pool table.
And another one of the users, for the first time in 15 years, was able to walk outside of his house You walk around the block on, time without you and be with him.
As you can imagine, developing technology like this isn't easy.
The implant has to be able to survive for years, inside the human body.
The body is incredibly good, at breaking down foreign materials.
It almost surrounds your implant with cells that are trying to digest your implant and make it go away.
As one of our advisors, a surgeon told me it's like trying to design a TV that's about this size that you can throw in the ocean and expected to operate for 10 years.
Second Sight does have some experience in this area.
The last product the artist to was a retinal prosthesis.
To guarantee the artist to would be able to survive embedded in the human eye for years, it had to be tested for years.
And some of those tests are still ongoing.
Through liquids through heat and through movement and any other stresses That the system could face you're trying to mimic what it's going to face once it's implanted in the human body.
So you're getting the best possible prediction of the reliability and how long it's going fast.
Orion will undergo similar tests as it navigates regulatory hurdles on its way to market.
Orion still has a long way to go before it will be made widely available to the world's approximately 39 million blind people.
We're in what's called the early feasibility study.
I mentioned that earlier.
And that's the first study that we would do for a device like this.
To show mainly that it's safe.
We are also in parallel, we're negotiating with the FDA.
For what the next trial and what the entire path looks like to get regulatory approval.
Fortunately, we were designated as a breakthrough device, we get more frequent interactions with the agency.
We also get quicker responses from the agency.
So it moves things along much faster.
Further down the line, this technology could prove useful for a much wider range of applications.
But first looking at ways that we can maybe improve the quality of the vision of this sensor, and one of the first things is just looking at the actual array that lays on the surface of the brain.
And that could be important because it could.
Allow us to increase kind of the visual field so we can sort of see spots of light here, perhaps we can move some of those spots closer to the centre.
We're also looking at systems that would have a higher electro count.
So think of is having 60 pixels, now we've got 150 pixels to work with.
And then we're looking at other technologies That we think would complement the artificial vision experience.
One of those is thermal imaging.
And this would think of it as a switch so that one of the Orion users could flip the switch, and then the stimulation, what they see would be based upon thermal imaging, so If I was sitting here using thermal imaging, I would see you and anyone else in the room that was generating heat.
Maybe my cup of coffee back here, you could see that are from a safety perspective.
You could see an eye on the stove or the oven or things like that.>> In neurosurgery we do a lot of brain stimulation for different diseases but the most channels that we have available right And right it now is 16 channels.
And this new device has 60 channels, so it's again, almost four times the number of the areas of the brain that we can potentially stimulate.
It requires an adaptation of the system, but that increase in number of channels really gives us the ability to be nimble and And stimulate the brain in novel patterns that may be limiting our ability to help other diseases,
Perhaps helping people with paralysis, untreatable depression.
There's all sorts of things all sorts of ways we can modulate what's going on in the brain to help people with previously untreatable conditions.
As always, thanks so much for watching.
See you next time with the fam.
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