A woman watches TV while the light from the tv falls over her

A New Television and a Bionic Eye... The Wonders of Technology

One of these two things mentioned above has just come into my life, and no doubt you can guess which one. Yes, I’m the proud owner of a new television, purchased after many months of saving, research, and shopping around.

But what does this have to do with a bionic eye you might well ask? And I’ll answer that. But first for the television.

Watching TV with AMD

With macular degeneration, it can get more difficult to watch television as the disease worsens. I know both of my parents, with AMD, had trouble seeing their screen properly and operating their remote control. I did get them a new television, but it was a little late, and they never fully mastered the controls or the capabilities of the set.

Having intermediate-stage dry macular degeneration, I wanted to get my new television while my vision is still fairly good, and I can get used to it. A larger screen would make it easier to see, and I wanted accessibility options that didn’t exist on my current 10-year-old set.

Decision-making and set-up

A 65-inch flat-screen smart television was the choice I eventually made. A strong and patient friend helped me set it up and connect it to the house wi-fi. This took most of the day, and luckily didn’t result in tears or tantrums, although I came close. I was left to fine-tune it myself to get the picture exactly right, and I’m still doing it. There is so much more to these new televisions than brightness and contrast!

Finding an accessible TV

But it was the accessibility options that I was most interested in. This is just some of what it can do. I’m still discovering its capabilities.

  • There is a function where you can learn the remote control. You can get the television to tell you which button you are pressing on the remote and that helps you to learn and remember.
  • A picture of the remote control can come up on the screen if you like, and you can see the buttons in a much larger form.
  • You can program it so the television will tell you which menu choice you are setting.
  • The font on menus can be enlarged and/or the colors inverted.
  • Each time you turn it on, it can come up with a big clock with the time and date. I know my dad was always asking me, “Wendy, what day is it and what time is it?” because he couldn’t quite make out his calendar and watch as his sight deteriorated with wet macular degeneration.
  • You can zoom in on the screen to make the picture or text bigger. You can adjust and move the zoom area.
  • It also has Google Assistant and Alexa for voice control. I haven’t got to them yet. I read somewhere “be careful what you say in front of your smart tv – it is listening!” I need to check that out a bit more!

What about the bionic eye?

You must be wondering by now where the bionic eye comes in. Well, after I had tuned in the television to the best of my ability, I managed somehow to connect a set-top box (which did induce tears!)

Then I decided it was time to view my first full program. I turned on the set and the first show that came up was from the BBC. It was about a trial of a bionic eye for a person with macular degeneration. I thought “how serendipitous this is” and I watched the show. I couldn’t remember it all, so I later found the article online relating to the trial.

Clinical trial experiences

It told of an 88-year-old woman in the UK, with seven children and eight grandchildren, who is part of a Europe-wide clinical trial of a “bionic eye”. She is a patient at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in the UK. The trial is an attempt to help people with dry age-related macular degeneration at the geographic atrophy (advanced) stage. The hope is that vision will be partially restored.1

She has been fitted with a very small microchip under her retina, and she wears special glasses which contain a video camera. The chip captures the scene from the glasses. The setup is connected to a small computer on her waistband. Artificial intelligence algorithms help the whole arrangement to work. The glasses project the image to the eye and it is interpreted as natural vision. After several weeks there is a rehabilitation program to learn to use whatever vision is available. The true potential of this device will be determined by the results of the device in all the participants. It was developed by Pixium Vision in France.2

Doubly successful!

The first viewing of my new television had been a double success! I could see the screen much more easily and clearly. To make matters even better, I had seen a show about a topic I was vitally interested in.

Technology may yet come to the rescue of those of us who develop advanced dry macular degeneration.

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