Braille contact lens may help the blind see

RAMAT GAN, Israel (NBC/RTV) — Researchers in Israel are working on a special kind of contact lens that they say will help blind people see.

The special contact lens doesn’t work via retinal photo receptors that other people use, but through tactile sensors found on the surface of the eye called the cornea.

They will feel shapes being transmitted through the lens, similar to the way blind people feel braille writing with their fingers.

“There is a camera that captures an image. The image is being processed by certain processor and then transmitted to a special contact lens, which is positioned on top of the cornea of the blind person,” said Zeev Zalevsky, with Bar Ilan University. “The transmitted spatial information generates spatial stimulation over the surface of the cornea, and this spatial tactile sensation — after proper training — can be recognized as the spatial shape that was imaged by the camera.”

The technology is still years away from being commercialized.

“Here we can see inside the goggles the matrix with the air pipes. We want to prove the concept of our device, where we can distinguish between the position of these pipes on our eye,” said Yevgeny Beiderman, with Electro-Optical Lab. “Later, we will replace these pipes with the contact lens and electric circuits — which will stimulate our eye instead of these pipes.”

The research is waiting on more funding for full clinical trials.

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