Almost two years ago we wrote about Second Sight Medical Products‘ Argus II prosthetic retina replacement and a new product, Orion. Orion consists of a camera mounted on a pair of glasses, a mobile controller, and an electrode array implant. The camera sends images to the controller which in turn transmits signals via the electrodes to the brain’s visual cortex. The Orion system bypasses the retina to stimulate the visual cortex directly. At the time of our original article in September 2017, the FDA had just granted conditional approval to UCLA and Baylor College of Medicine to perform the first implants on five patients each to test Orion.

Baylor College of Medicine recently published a progress report on its work with UCLA. In the Second Sight Study, neurosurgeons and neurosurgery academicians are working with patients who have the 60-electrode Orion arrays implanted in their brains. The study participants, each of whom has been blind for years, can point to the location of a white square that appears at random locations on a blacked-out computer display. The Baylor team is working to refine the subjects’ rudimentary visual experience. For example, while the subjects can locate a bright object within their field of “vision,” they cannot at this point in the study tell what the object is.

As the study proceeds, the subjects and the researchers are mapping the visual cortex to determine which locations correspond to locations in the subjects’ field of view. The current electrode array has 60 electrodes. Baylor faculty hope that as the mapping progresses, in the future the technology will stimulate thousands discrete points on the visual cortex to produce full, rich images.