Eye implants signal the end for reading glasses

Implants are set to get far more common, with the development of an implantable ring that combats the effects of blurriness in ageing eyes.

The device is currently being reviewed for clinical use in the US after a series of successful global trials, and is already for sale in some parts of Asia, Europe and South America.

Known as the KAMRA inlay, the device is designed to treat a condition known as presbyopia, which causes near-vision blurriness as the eyes age and become less flexible.

More than a billion people worldwide are affected by presbyopia, so the implant, which has been found to help 83% of sufferers, could become incredibly common.

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The inlay is a doughnut-shaped ring that is implanted into the cornea at the front of the eye.

At only 3.8mm in diameter with a 1.6mm hole in the middle, the device cannot be felt by the wearer once it is implanted.

It works similarly to a camera aperture, by adjusting the depth of field to respond to the distance the wearer is focusing on.

The implantation procedure is also very quick, taking around 10 minutes with a local anaesthetic.

Unlike previous similar devices, it can also be removed if needed.

“This is a solution that truly delivers near vision that transitions smoothly to far distance vision,” said Dr John Vukich, a clinical adjunct professor in ophthalmology and vision sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“Corneal inlays represent a great opportunity to improve vision with a safety net of removability.”

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Many will see the implant as an appealing alternative to reading glasses, particularly those who have to switch between tasks requiring close-distance and long-distance vision at regular intervals.

Others may also associate reading glasses with becoming old, and see the implants as a way to maintain a feeling of youthfulness.

However many will undoubtedly prefer to keep glasses rather than undergo a medical procedure.

Nonetheless, if the implant takes off it could pave the way to wider acceptance of implants generally. Such devices can be used for everything from tracking fitness and exercise to monitoring glucose, but at present many find the prospect on implants concerning.

This implant may play a key role in changing that perception.


Featured image courtesy of Katharina_z. Inline image one courtesy of Acufocus. Inline image two courtesy of Dan Foy.


Soviet report detailing lunar rover Lunokhod-2 released for first time

Russian space agency Roskosmos has released an unprecedented scientific report into the lunar rover Lunokhod-2 for the first time, revealing previously unknown details about the rover and how it was controlled back on Earth.

The report, written entirely in Russian, was originally penned in 1973 following the Lunokhod-2 mission, which was embarked upon in January of the same year. It had remained accessible to only a handful of experts at the space agency prior to its release today, to mark the 45th anniversary of the mission.

Bearing the names of some 55 engineers and scientists, the report details the systems that were used to both remotely control the lunar rover from a base on Earth, and capture images and data about the Moon’s surface and Lunokhod-2’s place on it. This information, and in particularly the carefully documented issues and solutions that the report carries, went on to be used in many later unmanned missions to other parts of the solar system.

As a result, it provides a unique insight into this era of space exploration and the technical challenges that scientists faced, such as the low-frame television system that functioned as the ‘eyes’ of the Earth-based rover operators.

A NASA depiction of the Lunokhod mission. Above: an image of the rover, courtesy of NASA, overlaid onto a panorama of the Moon taken by Lunokhod-2, courtesy of Ruslan Kasmin.

One detail that main be of particular interest to space enthusiasts and experts is the operation of a unique system called Seismas, which was tested for the first time in the world during the mission.

Designed to determine the precise location of the rover at any given time, the system involved transmitting information over lasers from ground-based telescopes, which was received by a photodetector onboard the lunar rover. When the laser was detected, this triggered the emission of a radio signal back to the Earth, which provided the rover’s coordinates.

Other details, while technical, also give some insight into the culture of the mission, such as the careful work to eliminate issues in the long-range radio communication system. One issue, for example, was worked on with such thoroughness that it resulted in one of the devices using more resources than it was allocated, a problem that was outlined in the report.

The document also provides insight into on-Earth technological capabilities of the time. While it is mostly typed, certain mathematical symbols have had to be written in by hand, and the report also features a number of diagrams and graphs that have been painstakingly hand-drawn.

A hand-drawn graph from the report, showing temperature changes during one of the monitoring sessions during the mission

Lunokhod-2 was the second of two unmanned lunar rovers to be landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union within the Lunokhod programme, having been delivered via a soft landing by the unmanned Luna 21 spacecraft in January 1973.

In operation between January and June of that year, the robot covered a distance of 39km, meaning it still holds the lunar distance record to this day.

One of only four rovers to be deployed on the lunar surface, Lunokhod-2 was the last rover to visit the Moon until December 2013, when Chinese lunar rover Yutu made its maiden visit.

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.