In man’s incessant search for the cure for blindness and deafness, a revolutionary new concept is being put forward as the answer to lost hearing and eyesight. Scientists have created a flat microscope—aptly called “FlatScope—that can be fitted inside the brain to help restore vision and improve sounds. According to MSN, the FlatScope sits in the brain to monitor and trigger neurons and can capture more detail than existing brain probes. Experts claim the device could cure both blindness and deafness.
The Rice University team behind the concept says the device “not only captures more detail than existing brain probes (the team is hoping to see “a million” neurons) but [also] reach[es] levels deep enough that it should shed light on how the mind processes sensory input. And that, in turn, opens the door to controlling sensory input.”
Using Technology To Find A Cure for Blindness
In theory, the technology, as a cure for blindness, could be used by blind people to see their surroundings via a camera which will send data to their brain using FlatScope. The camera could be fitted to a pair of glasses and be invisible to the person you are speaking with. Similar scenarios can be put forward for loss of hearing. Participants can pick up sounds using a microphone which will then be sent to the brain using FlatScope.
“The inspiration comes from advances in semiconductor manufacturing,” noted Jacob Robinson, a FlatScope researcher. “We’re able to create extremely dense processors with billions of elements on a chip for the phone in your pocket. So why not apply these advances to neural interfaces?”
FlatScope is currently being perfected as part of a military project but is also proving a generally important technology within the medical field — especially as a cure for blindness —that could help millions of blind or deaf people around the world.
Currently being used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), FlatScope has become an important part of the agencies high-resolution neural interface initiative. So far, developers have received $4 million in investment to work on the project, and more are slotted for allocation early next year. The project is currently being looked at for a commercial market. And tests are set to take place in the very near future to aid the healthcare industry.
A Bold Hope for People
“If technologies like the microscope lead to a way to quickly interpret neuron activity, it should be possible to craft sensors that send audiovisual data to the brain and effectively take over for any missing senses. Any breakthrough on that level is a long way off (at best) when even FlatScope exists as just a prototype, but there is some hope that blindness and deafness will eventually become things of the past,” MSN writes.
Certainly, it remains to be seen if FlatScope will make it onto the commercial healthcare market. Nevertheless, as technological developments in both the audio and visual fields enter the market at a rapid rate, the existence of FlatScope is good news for blind and deaf people worldwide.