Tiny Telescopes Help the Blind See Again

The bionic eye's inexorable advance continued this weekend, as doctors reported they were able to implant tiny telescopes (telescopes!) into the eyes of patients suffering from macular degeneration.

Better still, for squeamish emergency room pansies like myself, this is a "brief" outpatient procedure, say the inventors at VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies.

Just pop a telescope in your bad eye and you'll be avoiding home furniture by the evening. Well, after a round of intense physical therapy anyway. It seems the new vision takes some getting used to, although none of the 200 patients who tested this over the past five years reported any falling down or injury, said Dr. Henry Hudson, a retina specialist in Tuscon.

And while the devices won't allow patients to view faraway stars (not that powerful), they will allow them to see partial faces where there was once a gaping hole in their vision. "People can use it to recognize faces in a social setting," said Dr. Janet P. Szlyk. "That's a huge advance."

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel gave the tele-eyes their unanimous approval in March, and the full board is expected to give its blessing later this year. Europe is already using it. [NYT via Nick Bilton's Twitter]