Restoring Vision with a Bionic Eye

I’m Willem Griffiths. I’m a staff scientist at UO, in the Biology and Built Environment Center. And I earned my biology degree from UO in 2018 and I have an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa. I was 4 years old when I was diagnosed. The disease progresses by degenerating your photoreceptors from the periphery to the center of your vision. And they told me I could be blind in 5 years or in 50 years. I’m Richard Taylor, I’m head of the physics department and I work on the Bionic Eye Project, which is all about restoring vision to people who’ve lost it through diseases of the retina. The advantage that we have is that these bionic eyes are going to be bio-inspired. The devices we’re making are mimicking the neurons in the retina, so that you can pass that signal effectively from our artificial device to the natural system. And that’s going to be the key to our success, the fact that we’re learning from nature
and replicating it. I was enthralled with Richard Taylor. Just because, he’s such a funny, charismatic character. I could tell this is going to be a great class. He’s introduces the bionic eye project and I Instantly thought, ‘Alright, I’ve got to go talk to this guy.” The most impressive thing for me about Willem is that I gave this lecture and then within a couple of days he was in my office asking me really sophisticated questions about what I was doing. Our project should be able to deliver 20/80 vision. Which is enough to reach someone’s face. It’s enough to read a newspaper. I think if we are well funded and everything goes right then we’re looking at, you know, 5 to 10 years of building a prototype for this device. This bionic eye concept, actually having an artificial retina, is really my best hope with having vision through my later stages of life. That’s what really clicked with me and got me excited about the idea. You know, it’s a rough thing to deal with knowing you’re going to lose your vision in the future, but it’s a blessing in the sense that it’s really caused me to gain appreciation and push myself to the next level to make the most of every day I have.

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