A Japanese research team has made an important breakthrough in the wireless transmission of electricity that could allow blind people to see again without the need for a retina transplant.

The group from Tohoku University recently unveiled a prototype for an artificial retina that avoids the problem of cables hardwired into the head by drawing its power by electromagnetic induction from an external source.

Power beamed from outside

While the retina itself is still on the drawing board, the power supply unit appears to be near completion. A battery supplies current to an induction coil embedded in the lens of a pair of glasses, which then transfers a charge to the circuit at the back of the eyeball that will eventually drive the artificial retina.

On the downside, the side effects of electricity flowing through the circuit and the voltage of the AC being of a high enough frequency run the risk of causing excessive heating inside the eye, which clearly isn't a good thing.

According to the researchers, they need to keep power consumption below 50mW to avoid crossing the 3°C danger line at which the eye can be damaged.