How Close is a Bionic Eye Superior to a Human Eye?

Mike Gillam, 2 March 2015
Recently, a 68 year old man from Minneapolis-St Paul who had been blind from retinitis pigmentosa saw his wife for the first time in over a decade after receiving an Argus II Retinal implant.

The resolution of implanted retinas has been progressively improving. 1,000 pixels is considered the threshold to reliably see a human face. The Argus I provided 16 pixels of resolution. The Argus II implanted allows the man to see roughly 60 gray-scale pixels (10×6). Other efforts promise even greater improvements. The Retina Implant AG has 1,500 pixels and has been placed in 26 patients. A Stanford University efforts is aiming for 5,000 pixels.

Exponential trends have often taken people and taken companies by suprise. Could progress in retina resolution be on an exponential trend as well? The data are only preliminary, but they strongly resemble the exponential trends we have seen in many other types of technology today.

Human vision can see 576 million pixels.

If we follow the trend of artificial retinas forward, we might discover the date when artificial retinas could exceed human vision.

Current trends suggest that artificial retinas could exceed human vision within the next 22 years.

If suprahuman vision is available within 22 years, will there be fields of practice such as surgeons, fighter pilots or marksmen who may feel the need to swap their biologic retinas out to be more competitive in their field? What other fields of human endeavor might feel the pressure to “upgrade” one’s eyes?

Mike Gillam, MD, FACEP  2015


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