Seeing the unseen

A poet uses cutting-edge technology to see the world and capture it in images

Tia Ghose
Elizabeth Goldring, an artist and poet at MIT, has struggled with varying degrees of blindness for decades. She had been functionally blind for many months when her doctor used a scanning laser opthalmoscope (SLO) to focus a laser beam onto her retina. He projected the word "sun" directly onto Goldring's retina, and for the first time in many years, she could see a word clearly. "After not having seen anything for many months, I was amazed," she told __The Scientist__. Immediately, she saw the possibilities for the blind. She contacted Robert Webb, the inventor of the SLO and a physicist at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Harvard, and the two began working to build a "seeing machine." Over the past 20 years, they have created many prototypes. The first seeing machine was bulky, cost $200,000, and could only display black and white images. The latest version, the...

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