Blind World Magazine

Blind find it provides enough guidance to navigate outside.

Long Island Business News (Long Island, NY).
Monday, June 05, 2006.

By Claude Solnik

STONY BROOK - Stony Brook University is taking on a challenge of biblical proportions: Giving sight to the blind.

The school said the estate of a late scientist has donated technology to the school designed to provide artificial vision for the blind, in return for an agreement by the school to help develop a prototype device.

Dr. William H. Dobelle created the technology, which uses a camera fastened to glasses and a computer worn on a belt linked to electrodes on the brain to allow the blind to perceive the general outlines of objects. Users can see points of light scattered in their field of vision, but not complete shapes, giving them at least basic sense of the presence of objects.

"There are people who have had this device implanted in Portugal," Diane Fabel, director of operations for the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University, said Monday. "They find it provides enough guidance to navigate outside."

The Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University plans to work with Commack-based Avery Biomedical Devices Inc., the firm Dobelle founded, to develop the product. Avery would receive royalties from sales.

"This is a true partnership between the State of New York, Stony Brook University and private industry," Fabel noted in a Stony Brook press release. "The Dobelle family had a promising technology but lacked the breadth of resources necessary to develop it further."

She said in the release the center will tap the engineering expertise of Avery scientists and the clinical and research infrastructure of Stony Brook University to "add significant value to the device."

Avery Chief Operating Officer Linda Towler said in the release she's pleased Dr. Dobelle's "lifelong work will continue."

Stony Brook plans to use a biotechnology grant from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research for initial work, and hopes to seek National Institutes of Health funding to develop a commercial prototype, Fabel said Monday.

If the product performs well, Stony Brook would then seek an additional corporate partner to help bring it to market, she added.

End of article.

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