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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 editor@invisionmag.com.

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Optical Retailer to Add 25 Stores, Expand Into 4 New States

It’s entering the Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wyoming markets.

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DALLAS –Dallas-based optical retailer Eyemart Express announced that it plans to have 25 new locations operating by the end up 2019.

The company currently owns and operates 206 stores in 38 states, according to a press release. It’s expanding into four additional states: Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

“The drive behind our aggressive growth strategy is to make prescription eyewear accessible and convenient for more communities,” said Michael Bender, Eyemart Express CEO. “Seeing clearly should not be a burden or an excessive expense for any family. We work hard to make all our locations an affordable one-stop shop for all eyewear needs.”

Eyemart Express carries more than 2,000 frames for prescription glasses and sunglasses, ranging from exclusive private label brands to well-known brands such as Converse, Longchamp, Calvin Klein, Ray-Ban and Nike. Stores also feature onsite labs so 90 percent of glasses can be ordered and received on the same day.

“Eyemart Express’ growth helps entire communities as well. Job creation is an important factor in determining new store locations — we examine where Eyemart Express can make the biggest contribution to local economies with career opportunities,” said Bender.

More than 300 jobs will be created for hourly wage earners as a result of the optical retailer’s expansion.

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Warby Parker Rolls Out 5 Extended Sizes

They range from ‘extra narrow’ to ‘extra wide.’

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Eyewear  retailer Warby Parker is launching an “extended sizes” collection to help more consumers benefit from its products.

It features “five proportional sizes, ranging from ‘extra narrow’ to ‘extra wide’ and even including low bridge options,” the Observer reports.

Twenty-seven styles are available in seven best-selling frames.

To leverage augmented reality, the company utilized Apple’s ARKit and TrueDepth camera to create software that evaluates proper fit, according to the Observer.

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Warby Parker co-founder Dave Gilboa was quoted saying, “We started getting feedback from our customers saying, ‘I love these styles, but you don’t have anything that fits me’ or ‘you only offer one frame that fits me.’”

Chain Store Age reports that Warby Parker spent two years developing the new sizes.

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Vision Health Firm Buys Italian Company Focused on Retinal Screening and Telehealth

Next Sight develops robotic and IT technologies to provide ophthalmic diagnostic solutions.

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Luneau Technology has acquired Next Sight, an Italian company specialized in retinal screening and telehealth.

This acquisition “brings to Luneau increased capabilities – covering both Back and Front of the eye – to propose a comprehensive eye exam, which is a key customer need” and it “supports and brings a set of experience and technology which will help to drive forward a focus on a range of telehealth solutions for Luneau Technology group,” according to a press release.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Paola Griggio, CEO of Next Sight, will continue to manage initiatives around retinal topics and will also take up a key leadership role as she is appointed vice president for telehealth at Luneau Technology.

Marc Abitbol, president and CEO Luneau Technology, said, “It is a great opportunity for Luneau Technology to expand our offer.

“We are very excited to enter the telehealth space and welcome Paola among our management team to lead this new capability for the group.”

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Luneau Technology produces devices aimed at ophthalmic, optometrists and optical professionals.

Next Sight develops robotic and IT technologies to provide ophthalmic diagnostic solutions. Next Sight produces Nexy, a device which allows retina screening through a platform to securely send patient data to remote locations.

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