News: Blind woman can "see" with sound

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The CBC Radio One network in Canada has an interesting story online about a blind woman who can now "see". The story is accessible online in text, MP3, Ogg, and other formats. 2005.05.03: Additions to this story placed below.

Imagine being blind for 25 years, and suddenly being able to see again - using your ears. It sounds impossible, but that's exactly what happened to Pat Fletcher. For the past few years, she's been experimenting with a revolutionary new technology that allows her to see through sound. Using a simple computer program that she downloaded from the Internet, called "The vOICe", which translates visual images into soundscapes, Pat's brain is able to translate those sounds back into images.

2005.05.01: Another article on BiologyNewsnet discusses the creation of artificial corneas for a woman whose corneas were too damaged for standard replacements:

A severe allergic reaction to a medication robbed Elma Phifer of her vision two decades ago when she was 39. The reaction scarred her corneas and reduced the ability of her eyes to soothe their damaged surfaces by remaining moist.

Physicians at Duke University Eye Center and Harvard have been monitoring her closely following the implantation of an artificial cornea, or keratoprosthesis, into one of her eyes -- restoring her sight in that eye and ultimately helping her regain much of her independence.

2005.05.03: And in other news, scientists at the University of Southern California have developed artificial retina prosthesis that seems to come straight from Star Trek (The Next Generation):

Researchers from the University of Southern California and the Doheny Eye Institute's Doheny Retina Institute will be presenting data on the first six patients implanted with an intraocular retinal prosthesis-more popularly referred to as an artificial retina-developed and manufactured in partnership with Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., of Sylmar, Calif.

According to Mark Humayun, professor of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine and the lead investigator on the project, all six of the previously blind patients have been able to detect light, identify objects in their environment, and even perceive motion after implantation with the epiretinal device.

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For something guaranteed to not help the blind, see this BBC story on "Robots to help blind shopppers".

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on April 30, 2005 11:22 AM.

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