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Eye Implant Translates Written Words into “Visual” Braille

Science has come up with all kinds of ways to help people overcome various physical disabilities. There are hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, and more. While braille does help blind people read text, that’s not as useful in public places where they need to read street signs and public notices.

A modified version of the Argus II vision prosthesis from Second Sight has now been developed that can translate written words into a visual representation of Braille, straight into the person’s eyes. The Argus II is implanted over a person’s retina and provides a “display” of an 10×6 grid. Since Braille uses a 3×2 grid, translating single letters–in real time, no less–isn’t all that difficult.

The original purpose of the Argus II was just to give the person a (very) pixelated view of the world, differentiating between light and dark, and sometimes making out features like doorways. With this “Braille mode” turned on, the person is able to read signs and other text around them. A volunteer who was already using Argus II was able to read letters at a rate of about one a second, being accurate 89% of the time.

No, this is nowhere as fast as real Braille–the typical Braille users can read up to 800 letters per minute by touch–but it could prove to be a fascinating innovation for the blind community.


About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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