Man plans to see the world after a decade of near total blindness

What’s the first thing you would do if you regained your sight after a decade of complete blindness? For Allen Zderad, a 68 year old American man who has just been fitted with a bionic eye, it was to hug his wife.

Next, he plans to travel.

Zderad has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that caused his sight to slowly deteriorate to nearly nothing over the course of his life. It forced him to walk with a cane.

The bionic eye, more accurately known as a retinal prosthesis implant, took over 25 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. In many ways it’s the next step in wearable technology that could revolutionise travel and help thousands of people to see the world.

It had been a decade since Zderad had seen his wife. “Ten years, but I still kiss her with my eyes closed,” he laughed when the bionic eye was first activated.

It doesn’t provide perfect vision; a wearable computer pack sends information to electrodes implanted in his retina, replacing his damaged retinal cells and sending signals straight to the optic nerve. The result is pixellated black and white vision.

“It’s crude, but it’s significant,” said Zderad. “It works.”

Zderad is the 101st person in the world to receive the implant, and to an extent he will act as a guinea pig to test its application for people with other eye conditions. It’s a role he plans to embrace by pushing his limits, first by seeing a movie and spending time with his family, and then by travelling and experiencing the world.

We think that’s a fantastic idea.