Laser-technology company Aculight has been awarded a contract under the Small Business Innovation Research program to develop an optical cochlear implant based on neural stimulation technology. Backed by a $750,000 Phase II award from the National Institutes of Health, the company expects to produce a laser-based cochlear implant that provides users with dramatically improved fidelity over current electrical implants. The implant may lead the way to future optically-based implants that could accurately stimulate nerve fibers. As a result, users could experience levels of hearing unachievable with current technology, allowing them to listen to subtle tones and nuances in music or distinguish a single voice in a noisy room. Additionally, the Phase II funding will enable Aculight to produce an implant that can be used in research studies at Northwestern University prior to developing a model for clinical applications.