One of the greatest challenges for scientists remains making blind people see again. Diego Ghezzi, Medtronic Chair in Neuroengineering (LNE) at EPFL’s School of Engineering, has been studying and developing technology to help blind people see. A retinal implant they created works with camera-equipped smart glasses and a microcomputer to form artificial vision.
Ghezzi said, “Our system is designed to give blind people a form of artificial vision by using electrodes to stimulate their retrial cells.”
The camera embedded within the smart glasses records images through the perspective of the wearer’s vision. This information is then transferred to a microcomputer placed in one of the eyeglasses’ end pieces. Light signals are created by the microcomputer and transmitted to electrodes in the retinal implant. When a person wears the glasses, they see a simplified, black-and-white version of the landscape in front of them. When the retinal cells are stimulated, dots and light appear in a simplified way. However, wearers will have to interpret multiple dots of light to decipher shapes and objects.
“It’s like when you look at stars in the night sky – you can learn to recognize specific constellations. Blind patients would see something similar with our system,” said Ghezzi.
The technology has yet to be tested on humans, as the research team needs to be certain of their results first. The engineers developed a reality program that enables patients to see implants in a virtual setting.
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