Re: "Star Trek: First Contact" Technical Questions

James Rogers (
Mon, 25 Nov 1996 10:38:43 -0800

At 10:50 PM 11/24/96 -0500, you wrote:
>On Sun, 24 Nov 1996, Ira Brodsky wrote:
>> My eye doctor told me that if someone is truly blind (e.g., the retina is
>> destroyed), then the optic nerve dies. Therefore, it would not be possible
>> to replace the entire eye *unless* you invent a way to bypass the optic
>> nerve.
> Point your browser to this address:
>It's the May issue of the IEEE Spectrum, they discuss this very topic. I
>also recall hearing of work being done on a processor that floats on the
>retina and interprets incoming signals and passes them on to the optic
>nerve, for the visually impaired (though I could imagine many
>opportunities for augmentation, not just repair and restoration). I don't
>recall what that is from (I've gone through back issues of most of the
>journals that it could be in), anyone have any idea?

I saw something on this on the Discovery channel. It was pretty
interesting. They have been currently experimenting with 8 x 8 sensor
arrays, but they believe they can achieve a much higher sensor density than
this. The difficulty is attaching the electronic device to the nervous
system. It is currently done by surgically attaching nerves to fine wires
on the backside of the device. The person then has to "learn" to organize
the inputs into a coherent pattern.

What I find interesting is that the nervous system can adapt to the input
device without us having any knowledge of which neuron should be attached
where. The brain sorts out the interface all by itself. Admittedly the
current 8x8 resolution is kind of low, but very useful if you are blind, and
onboard logic does some processing for the device. Note however, that an
external power supply is required.

As far as augmentation goes, reportedly the device allowed the test subjects
to see well into the infrared range and in extremely low light levels. This
is a consequence of the sensor technology, and not really an intentional
goal of the device. It would be a useful augmentation though!

-James Rogers