Technology

Bionic Woman Tanks, Bionic Eye Succeeds!

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bionic woman

The Bionic Woman television series failed fairly spectacularly, but the prospects for the bionic eye look good:

Bionic eyes that return sight to the blind might not be as far off as previously thought, with researchers in London carrying out the first treatment on a pair of patients in a study of a new technology.

The new bionic eyes are connected to a camera on a pair of glasses, so they aren't the all-in-one models you're envisioning. And if successful, they'll really only allow patients to see light and dark outlines rather than full sight. But still, to someone who has no vision at all, this is still pretty great news. And if they're working on it in this state now, you know that they'll have the camera in the eye itself and the vision improved as the years go on.

Via Gizmodo 

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  1. Bionic Woman tanked because it sucked, Katee Sackhoff notwithstanding.

  2. Wow, very cool! I saw a documentary about this on TV maybe 5 years ago and it only had a 8 x 8 px resolution at the time.

    I’m curious to see how this plays with the “no cameras in court” rule since in a few years it will be trivial to put large amounts of flash memory into it and record everything you see.

  3. I’m curious to see how this plays with the “no cameras in court” rule since in a few years it will be trivial to put large amounts of flash memory into it and record everything you see.

    Same with no filming of police officers beating the crap out of someone. I guess everybody just gets preventively tazed, which should disable all the pesky on-board electronics.

  4. not just cameras, and not just for the blind. If a camera will work, then any video input would work.

  5. Does anyone know where/when/why the “no cameras in court” rule originated anyways? It seems to me like it might be a holdover from when they had big smokey flash bulbs and would have been an obnoxious distraction.

  6. Bingo,

    I saw a different serial-documentry about this in the 1970s. It was called The Bionic Woman. It was an update to The Six Million Dollar Man. Hope the prices have come down.

  7. I believe the “no cameras in court” rule originated so that millions of people would not discover that the only people allowed to lie in a court of law are prosecutors and police.

  8. Damn! Should have mentioned my opinion that a large number of judges would be deemed to incompetent to preside at any trial.

  9. This is obviously a hoax on the level of piltdown man. Eyes are irreducibly complex.

  10. Does anyone know where/when/why the “no cameras in court” rule originated anyways?

    Not disagreeing with Naga, but I believe the reasons included not wanting distractions for the jury, and not wanting witnesses/attorneys/judges playing for the cameras (O.J. trial, anyone?)/

  11. Better hope the developers have a safe place to work, least the replicants come-a-callin’ to extend their lifespans.

  12. I agree with Episiarch. The Daily Mail called the audience for SF TV “fickle.” They sound like the same people who insisted, over and over, that Star Trek was suffering from “franchise fatigue.” Bullshit in both cases. Reviving the Bionic Woman wasn’t that great an idea to begin with, but the revival needed to be a top-tier show at least. Instead, it appears to have been put together like a Frankenstein monster, out of “elements” (including foil Katee Sackhoff) that were believed to be crucial in the success of other shows. This was a standard ho-hum Hollywood approach, and the audience, far from being “fickle,” picked up on it and reacted accordingly.

    In Star Trek’s case, Paramount had apparently reached a point where they thought they could slap out any crap with a starfleet logo on it (especially in terms of the movie “franchise”) and continue to milk the “cash cow.” But the audience knows ST can embody quality that stands the test of time, and they don’t want to accept less, much less pay top dollar for theatre tickets. This doesn’t mean that the audience is fickle (c’mon, who are more stubbornly loyal than Star Trek fans?) or that “franchise fatigue” has set in. On the other hand, the “crap fatigue” meter is showing in the red (or brown, if you prefer), and has for many years.

    Nobody thought Battlestar Galactica would work, but when it did, everyone thought they understood what the “secret ingredient” was. Typical Hollywood thinking, but obviously wrong. I have my theories about why BSG worked, and BW didn’t, but maybe it just comes down to the difference between a human heart and a bionic one. Even the Cylons, it seems, are showing evidence of a human heart. But where was that heart in BW? I think it is wrong to blame the lead actress for the failure of the show. BW was definitely a longshot, and if she gave it her BEST shot, that’s good enough for me to give her another try. I hope that the Daily Mail is also wrong about this marking the end of her American career.

  13. Given the sorry and eroding state of video entertainment, perhaps we’ll hear the following song on country radio in a few years time: “Bionic eye and nothing to watch.” It’ll of course be a re-imagined remake of “57 Channels and Nothing’s On.”

  14. Why did it take so long to develop this technology? should not this technology have existed by the early ’90’s?

  15. Off subject a bit, but as for Katee Sackhoff . . . WOW! She reminds me of a girlfriend I would make up for a blog.

    This reminds me of a girlfriend I once had . . .

  16. Back on subject . . .

    I took away in biology that the human eye is the most sophisticated viewing device ever created. Self-focusing, self-repairing, incredibly resilient, and so on. Even if the bionic eye can only register outlines, I am immensely impressed.

  17. not just cameras, and not just for the blind. If a camera will work, then any video input would work.

    I think you hit the nail on the head here. The possibilities for this technology are huge for the consumer market.

  18. “Frankly, the bosses at the network decided to blame Michelle for the show’s failure.”

    So, the entertainment world mirrors the political one. Shocking.

  19. I read about experiments that showed that kittens need to be exposed to light during a crucial time for their brains to learn to process the information from their eyes.

    Exposure to light before or after this period will not fix the “blindness” that occurs if the kittens are kept in total darkness during this time period.

    I was born blind in my right eye. Can’t remember the medical name, but not enough blood vessels formed on my retina, so my cones and rods didn’t develope. I wonder if humans go through a similar developmental stage as kittens. If so, will this technique work on the portion of my brain that is suppose to process information from my right eye?

    Will it work on someone who has never seen, or will it only work to restore vision that has been lost?

  20. Nobody thought Battlestar Galactica would work, but when it did, everyone thought they understood what the “secret ingredient” was.

    The “secret ingredient” was the venue – a channel people tune into to see exactly that kind of programming. Just like Farscape wouldn’t work on basic cable and Stargate already died there, both thrived on Sci-Fi Channel, and same goes for BSG.

  21. I think in this case the complexity and difficulty comes primarily from the human- machine interface, not the ‘eye’ itself. Basicaly you would need to make the right connection from every ‘eye pixel’ to the optic nerve.

  22. Jozef, good point. There’s no other possible explanation for the eleventy-nine seasons of the various Stargates they’ve inflicted on us.

  23. Well, Stargate has been pretty solid in entertainment value, however light, until this last year or so. Atlantis has improved, though, while SG-1 has completely deteriorated.

    Flash Gordon, on the other hand, did for SciFi serials what Jonestown Kool-ade did for kid’s drinks.

  24. Cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing, and has existed for a few decades.
    I’m sure it is a matter of time before the blind can use similar technology to regain sight:

    A blind man regained his sight after his son’s tooth was implanted in his eye.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,333555,00.html

  25. Flash Gordon, on the other hand, did for SciFi serials what Jonestown Kool-ade did for kid’s drinks.

    While not disagreeing with you that FG was crap which I forced my wife to sit through in revenge for years of teeny bopper drama, they drank Flavor-Aid. The nice people at Kraft Foods would like you to remember that.

  26. # Jozef | April 22, 2008, 2:22pm | #
    ## Nobody thought Battlestar Galactica
    ## would work, but when it did, everyone
    ## thought they understood what the “secret
    ## ingredient” was.

    # The “secret ingredient” was the venue –
    # a channel people tune into to see exactly
    # that kind of programming.

    Although it is worthwhile to note that the same venue has expanded into strange programming — wrestling matches, sappy fantasy movies, metaphysical reality shows, and even pure horror. So if you flip there expecting to see “sci fi” or otherworldly fantasy, you are increasingly likely NOT to find what you want there.

    # Just like Farscape wouldn’t work on basic
    # cable and Stargate already died there,
    # both thrived on Sci-Fi Channel, and same
    # goes for BSG.

    Just for the record, Stargate started on Showtime, which was a premium (not basic cable) service on the cable systems to which I subscribed during the Showtime run of the series. SG-1 lasted there for five seasons. The Showtime run was extremely successful, building a loyal following that lobbied successfully for a transition to the Sci Fi Channel, which needed an “anchor” show to replace the departing Farscape. On Sci Fi, SG-1 lasted another five seasons, at which point it finally was cancelled, but only after spinning off the successful Stargate: Atlantis. SG-1 seems to have been as successful on premium cable as on the Sci Fi channel: in each case of cancellation, the show either found another berth or left its legacy behind in a spinoff. Last I checked, there are still TV movies and DVD releases based on as-yet un-aired SG-1 material in the works; additionally, SG-1 runs on over-the-air TV in syndication in many places around the world, so it isn’t even properly “dead” yet. SG-1 and the Stargate franchise in general seem to transcend venue.

    I note that the 4400 — recently cancelled — “thrived” on the USA Network for several years and that, despite “thriving” on the sibling SciFi network, BSG will also be bowing out after its current season. It’s odd that some people think that SG1 “died” at Showtime after five years (after which it perhaps “faded away” at Sci Fi for another five), but maintain that BSG “thrived” on Sci Fi channel even though it will almost certainly never see a fifth season.

    All the above being said, I am still a great fan of the Stargates, 4400, and BSG. Not so much BW, though. Hot chicks, notwithstanding.

  27. Besides the question of the adult brain being able to process information it has never received before, the other interesting question would/will be *how* it processes it. I wonder how a person who has never seen before would adjust to the flood of new and disorienting sensory information? Interesting stuff, and I’ll be curious to see how it develops.

    As to BSG vs. the Bionic Woman, the “secret ingredient” in BSG was nothing more complicated than excellent screenwriting. The Bionic Woman remake had some of the thinnest, hokiest plots I can remember, as well as some of the absolute worst dialog. Given the production connection to BSG, I was eagerly awaiting the BW remake and was sorely disappointed. It was truly a missed opportunity, because that was one of the few old TV franchises that I felt could be remade into something good. And I still think it could. Too bad.

  28. Geordivision!

    Michael Behe: This is obviously a hoax on the level of piltdown man. Eyes are irreducibly complex.

    Bionic eyes have intelligent designers.

  29. Bionic Woman tanked because it sucked, Katee Sackhoff notwithstanding.

    That, and that she ain’t no Lindsay Wagner.

  30. Sucked? Flash Gordon sucked. Huuuuuuuge donkey balls sucked. Could they have made it any lower budget?

    I don’t think that BW “sucked” so much as it just bored me to tears. Yeah, that qualifies as “sucks,” but it just wasn’t very engaging, hottie brunette lead or no. Just finding out now that she was a Brit is a surprise. Didn’t know!

    BSG is the metric from which all that follow shall be measured. I predict many utter and complete failures are on tap. Aaaaand I’ll probably watch most of them anyway, at least for a couple shows.

    Sadly, the SciFi Channel is a ghost of its former self, which ain’t saying too much to begin with.

  31. The Bionic Woman remake had some of the thinnest, hokiest plots I can remember, as well as some of the absolute worst dialog. Given the production connection to BSG, I was eagerly awaiting the BW remake and was sorely disappointed.

    Which says to me: find out which of the BSG writers/producers weren’t involved in BW and hire them for something new. Because they must be the skilled ones.

    Maybe Buck Rogers in the 25th Century? They turned the super-cheesy original BSG into something great, and though they wouldn’t have Erin Gray, they might be able to supercharge Buck as well.

  32. Sadly, the SciFi Channel is a ghost of its former self, which ain’t saying too much to begin with.

    SciFi is the same as it has always been. They pump out tons of low budget Saturday movies, 90% of which suck, 9% of which are OK, and 1% that are actually quite good.

    They create new shows every season, most of which are mediocre but watchable, some total pieces of shit, and their occasional massive hit like BSG or Farscape.

    And they play tons of syndicated reruns.

    I miss First Wave 🙁

  33. That, and that she ain’t no Lindsay Wagner.

    Katee Sackhoff played the villain, not the Jaime Sommers character, which was played by Michelle Ryan. Incidentally, I thought both actresses did as much as they could with the terrible material they had to work with. Ryan was playing Jaime Sommers as a more reluctant and confused heroine. Lindsay Wagner’s portrayal started out that way, IIRC, but then became pretty much Steve Austin with girl parts.

    Which says to me: find out which of the BSG writers/producers weren’t involved in BW and hire them for something new. Because they must be the skilled ones.

    That’s easy, the primary writer/producer of BSG is Ronald G. Moore, and he was not involved with BW. His co-producer David Eick was the mastermind behind BW, and either he doesn’t have as much going on as Moore or NBC interfered a lot, given that BW appeared on NBC/Universal’s “mother network” rather than on one of its low-rated cable channels. Some of both, I suspect.

  34. THE URKOBOLD WATCHED THAT SHOW. THE PROBLEM WAS THAT THE SO-CALLED BIONIC WOMAN’S BREASTS WERE NOT LARGE ENOUGH. THE URKOBOLD RECOMMENDS NEXT TIME CASTING SCARLETT JOHANSSON (OR FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENT) AS THE BIONIC WOMAN. WITH OLD-SCHOOL BIONIC SLOW MOTION: BOUNCE. . .BOUNCE. . .BOUNCE. . . .

    THE URKOBOLD WILL NOW ADJOURN TO HIS BUNK.

  35. Incidentally, I thought both actresses did as much as they could with the terrible material they had to work with.

    The direction was fucking awful. Sackhoff can obviously get a little on the scenery-chewing side if you let her, and while they control her on BSG they didn’t on BW–and she was over the top.

    Ryan was too understated and should have been prodded to bring more to the role.

    And it had that off-kilter vibe that I hate, where all the dialog feels stilted, writing details seem wrong, and it feels like it’s just not clicking. Which is usually the result of both poor writing and poor direction.

  36. Sorry there, Episiarch, but I can’t read past the Urkobold’s posting without retiring to my bunk.

    Oh, heck, here I go again!

  37. And it had that off-kilter vibe that I hate, where all the dialog feels stilted, writing details seem wrong, and it feels like it’s just not clicking. Which is usually the result of both poor writing and poor direction.

    Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I guess I’d have to add in the direction as a negative, also.

    It could be that casting an English actress for the lead role wasn’t the best idea. The traditional English school favors more subtlety and probably isn’t well suited for action-based drama. I do agree that Ryan could have put more into the role, even though I sympathize with the idea of making her into a reluctant heroine.

  38. RYAN. WHAT ABOUT JERI RYAN? SHE LOOKS MORE BIONIC TO THE URKOBOLD, AND SHE MEETS THE URKOBOLD’S EARLIER STATED CRITERION.

  39. Episiarch wrote, “I miss First Wave :-(.”

    Me too. Note, however, that the “Cade Foster” actor (Sebastian Spence) now shows up in the fighter-pilot crowd scenes in BSG. Maybe he is the 12th Cylon “skin job” model (though it would be a real bummer if #12 wasn’t one of the major characters that we have already come to love).

    ChrisO wrote, “…the primary writer/producer of BSG is Ronald G. Moore.”

    Moore was also a big wheel on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and was one of the guys who did the most to develop Klingon participation in Next Generation and DS9. Recall that the last seasons of DS9 happened during the first Gulf War; much of the criticism of martial law and the State of War that we have seen in BSG was foreshadowed in some excellent DS9 episodes (I think immediately of “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” which Moore himself wrote). As much as I miss First Wave, I miss DS9 all the more and still carry a grudge against Paramount for not working DS9 into ST movies before abandoning the TNG/DS9 future for the Pre-TOS past. The DS9 characters and actors deserved much better than being relegated to conventions and fan-fic/vid. It was one of the best shows ever broadcast, imho.

    JW wrote, “Just finding out now that she [BW star Michelle Ryan] was a Brit is a surprise.”

    Were you aware that “Apollo,” the younger Adama on BSG, is also played by someone whose “native” accent is British, Jamie Bamber? He nailed the “American” accent so well that I about fell off my chair when I first saw an interview with him “out of character.” I mean, this guy is so good, he can slur drunkenly, cry, and swear under his breath with an American accent. I read somewhere that his Dad was American but that he was raised in the UK, so perhaps this explains his truly amazing facility to switch between accents. (I say this as someone who spent many years in radio and worked hard to do the few accents I can perform passably well. I haven’t heard this guy utter a false vowel or stress yet, even in the most apparently “unguarded” onscreen moments, of the type that have tripped up nearly all other “faux” Americans I’ve seen in movies or on TV.)

  40. ChrisO wrote, “Besides the question of the adult brain being able to process information it has never received before, the other interesting question would/will be *how* it processes it. I wonder how a person who has never seen before would adjust to the flood of new and disorienting sensory information?”

    Research by Numenta (http://www.numenta.com/) may help answer that question. Their primary activity is using software to model and simulate the operation of cerebral (neo-)cortex. Visual recognition problems have been among the first projects tackled.

    The basic theory of hierarchical temporal memory (HTM), on which Numenta’s models and simulations are based, is described for the general public in Jeff Hawkins’ book, “On Intelligence” (http://www.onintelligence.com/).

    In that book, there is some speculation about how it is that people with brain injuries or brain-related birth defects manage to retain or regain capabilities that they shouldn’t have, due to the appropriate part of the brain being absent or damaged; also, how it is that people who lose or lack certain senses compensate through enhancement of their other senses. The basic adaptability of the brain, which Hawkins seems to believe is a basic feature of cortex, augurs well for the eventual success of artificial eyes. Incidentally, in his discussion of the visual system, Hawkins points out that, for all that the human eye is an amazing device, it is still very crude, relative to the rich visual detail we perceive. Most of the work of vision is actually done in the brain, says Hawkins, which both maintains our detailed visual model of the world, and directs the eye to dart around methodically, in order to update that model continuously using the far-from-perfect visual impulses that the eye and optic nerve provide.

    I’ve been following this research for several years, now. I think you’ll start hearing a lot about it and its repercussions in the 2010s.

  41. Were you aware that “Apollo,” the younger Adama on BSG, is also played by someone whose “native” accent is British, Jamie Bamber? He nailed the “American” accent so well that I about fell off my chair when I first saw an interview with him “out of character.”

    Yep. That’s not a secret, but I know what you mean.

    SciFi is the same as it has always been. They pump out tons of low budget Saturday movies, 90% of which suck, 9% of which are OK, and 1% that are actually quite good.

    They create new shows every season, most of which are mediocre but watchable, some total pieces of shit, and their occasional massive hit like BSG or Farscape.

    No question of the shit-to-good ratio, but their produced shows seem to be getting a bit thin. Once BSG bows out, what’s left other than SG: Atlantis? I do enjoy Atlantis, but the Sarah Jane Chronicles? Yawn. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the “Caprica” prequel spin-off.

    I yearn for the SciFi Friday days of SG-1, Farscape and Lexx. I didn’t even like Lexx all that much, but at least SciFi seemed like they were trying then, despite cancelling Farscape a season short, which was inexcusable.

    What I don’t get is why they didn’t pick up Firefly when Fox boxed it? They would have had a ready-made audience and they passed? Dumb-asses.

  42. Strangest thing about Stargate, about five years ago we met one of the producers, might have been Michael Greenburg, on the Road to Hana. We kept running into them and eventually kind of hung with him and his family…you know how kids get along.

    Later at the Red Sand Beach I’m asking what he does, and he tells me. Course I’m clueless and after a while he kind of looks at me and says you never heard of Stargate, have you? I shrug. Well, no. We don’t get Showtime.

    I’m skeptical anyway, but they’re cool so we hang out some more, had some drinks and Jacuzzi time at our place, ran into them the next day at the beach. His wife was some gorgeous, tall, dark-haired dancer chick and as I recall she claimed to be a choreographer with the Chicago ballet. The guy picked my brain about some tax questions being they were filming in Canada. He gave us his number and email address, which of course, I lost.

    Anyway, he was cool. Still can’t figure out who it was although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Brad wright. Course it could have all been some elaborate BS story, but it seems like whatever website/email/stuff he gave us checked out at the time. All I can remember for sure is the boys name was Dimitri.

    Kevin Bacon Regards, TWC

  43. The basic adaptability of the brain, which Hawkins seems to believe is a basic feature of cortex, augurs well for the eventual success of artificial eyes.

    I suppose that’s true. And, of course, I would guess that the majority of totally blind people have problems with the eye mechanism but have the appropriate neural pathways just sitting there dormant.

    Looking back to when I was a little kid watching “The Six Million Dollar Man”, it’s pretty remarkable that we are able to have a serious discussion about this topic.

  44. BTW, it’s interesting that James Callis didn’t adopt an American accent to play Baltar.

    And, of course, there are plenty of Canadian accents going on in that show, which cracks me up every time Tigh or the Chief speaks.

  45. I remember Jamie Bamber in the Horatio Hornblower series (BBC, then A&E, I think). Full English mode there, of course.

  46. You guys didn’t answer NoStar’s question (2:17), which was, well, important.

  47. You guys didn’t answer NoStar’s question (2:17), which was, well, important.

    Actually, I asked more or less the same question, and Mr. Merritt provided some useful information. The brain could likely adapt to new circumstances, though how far it could do so is a good question.

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