Many who are legally blind have functional retinas locked behind lenses so clouded they can't see a thing. Doctors can detect this type of ocular defect using a scanning laser opthalmoscope (or SLO), and can even focus an image onto those hidden retinas to allow the blind to see -- temporarily, since a cost of $100,000 and a rather non-portable design means SLO's are only suited for medical offices. We reported
back in 2006 on the efforts of MIT's Elizabeth Goldring and colleagues to create a cheaper, portable version, and now a prototype is entering testing. It's comprised of a digital camera (looks like possibly a Lumix DMC-TZ50
) mounted to an LED-backlit LCD that is able to focus to a point, penetrating lenses damaged by glaucoma or macular degeneration. No word on when this sort of thing might be generally available, but testing will take place at the Beetham Eye Institute in Boston, so head on over if you want to get some eyes-on time with one of these.