Second Sight Medical Products
Developer of: The Argus II retinal prosthesis
Cool factor: These are truly visionary glasses designed to help patients felled by the neurodegenerative disease retinitis pigmentosa to regain at least some of their vision. To an outsider, the whole thing looks like nothing more than a souped up pair of sunglasses. But there are actually three complex parts: A retinal implant, glasses with an attached video camera and a wireless processing unit that attaches to a belt. To create "sight," the camera turns video images into small electrical pulses and then transmits them wirelessly to the retina implant, stimulating remaining cells, which enables the brain to perceive light patterns. Patients learn, over time to interpret the patterns and regain some sight in the process. Argus II is also close to gaining regulatory approval, thanks to the unanimous backing of an FDA advisory panel of experts in late September.