Blindness is the number one disability everybody fears. World Heath Organisation data shows that worldwide more than 1 in 200 people are blind, meaning that about 45 million people live with this major disability. There are many diseases and injuries that can lead to blindness, and it is not only associated with old age: 20% of blind people are younger than 50. Even now, at the beginning of the third millennium, there is no cure for blindness except when it is caused by defects of the eye lens, such as cataract.
Thus, most blind people have to resort to low-tech aids such as canes, a guide dog, audio books or reading software. Especially in our modern society where images and videos are everywhere, blind people are excluded from most social and economical activities. Moreover, even simple daily tasks can become very challenging once you have become blind.
However, finally, there is hope! Neurostimulation research has shown that it is possible to transmit images directly to the brain, bypassing any damaged eyes or nerves. Thus, the race is on to develop a prosthesis to make blind people regain practical sight.
Sounds impossible? For deafness, this has already been done. So-called cochlear implants bypass the damaged ear and now allow 80% of their users to understand speech. However, blindness is more complicated as images are more complex to elicit than sounds due to the higher complexity and higher bandwidth. Learn more about how we approach the cure for this disability on our technology page.
The various causes of blindness