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$2.4M Grant to Support ‘Artificial Vision’ Technology for Blind

Second Sight is seeking to augment the capabilities of its Orion system.

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LOS ANGELES — Second Sight Medical Products Inc., a maker of implantable visual prosthetics intended to create an artificial form of vision for blind individuals, has received a $2.4 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop spatial localization and mapping (SLAM) technology.

The initiative is intended to speed the integration of SLAM into next-generation versions of the company’s Orion Visual Cortical Prosthesis System. It’s a joint collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

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Second Sight and APL will use the NIH grant to capitalize on recent advances in computer vision, including object recognition, depth sensing and SLAM, to augment the existing capabilities of Orion. The goal is to give Orion users the ability to localize objects and navigate landmarks in unfamiliar surroundings in real time.

APL will take the lead in developing the SLAM technology, while Second Sight will be responsible for its integration and subsequent clinical deployment.

“This grant is a significant milestone that will allow us to greatly enhance the artificial vision experience,” said Will McGuire, president and CEO of Second Sight. “Imagine having the ability to save and load maps of different environments, like the grocery store, fitness center or doctor’s office, on demand, to help navigate through daily living activities. These types of enhancements could be a real game changer for blind individuals who are seeking to reconnect to the world using our technology.”

The research is supported by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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Leveraging Second Sight’s 20 years of experience in neuromodulation for vision, Orion is an implanted cortical stimulation device for individuals who are blind due to a wide range of causes, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, optic nerve injury or disease, and eye injury. Orion is intended to convert images captured by a miniature video camera mounted on glasses into a series of small electrical pulses. The device is designed to bypass diseased or injured eye anatomy and to transmit the electrical pulses wirelessly to an array of electrodes implanted on the surface of the brain’s visual cortex, where it is intended to provide the perception of patterns of light.

A six-subject early feasibility study of the Orion is currently underway at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. No peer-reviewed data is available yet for the Orion system. The company anticipates negotiating the clinical and regulatory pathway to commercialization with the FDA as part of the Breakthrough Devices Program.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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