Take a look at the following video.
It is a good human story video about a recipient, Roger Pontz of the Argus II retinal prosthesis. I do not discount the research or Mr. Pontz’s feelings and celebrate with him. However, there appears to be very little functional vision. By functional vision I mean vision that you can use to do something.
Yes, you can see flashes of light and kind of make out edges etc but how useful is that? Many will say, that it is the first step and I would agree. The trouble is that sensory substitution devices can already give you significantly more functional vision and do not need surgery and are less expensive.
Take the the vOICe as an example. Let us see what you need for functional vision.
|Item||Approximate Cost in US dollars|
|A netbook or subnotebook pc||400|
|A pair of headphones 50 or less|
Alternatively, if you do not want a head mounted setup, you can use your existing smartphone assuming it runs Android or, try applications such as voice vision or EyeMusic on IOS devices. Contrast this to a $145000 retinal implant.
The surgery etc would be worth it if you could get more than what you could with sensory substitution devices but as of this writing, that appears not to be the case. Users of sensory substitution devices can detect light immediately. There is no need to comprehend flashes. You get shape information directly to the brain. Some people have been able to read large print and perform grasping tasks just after about 3 months of training or less.
I do not doubt the value of perceiving light. I am saying there are alternatives out there that are ready to use and can give you much more function. I have light perception but no shape perception. When I use the vOICe, my light perception does not give me an edge. It is just there. Yes, it is useful for sleep regulation etc but for pure functionality, I do not need to perceive light. I need an indication of brightness which is enough to tell me whether it is day or night, if I am walking towards or away from a light source, if I have left the lights on, —- you get the picture.