Scientists around the world are working to help people who suffer from conditions that prevent them from moving, seeing, or taking care of themselves for various reasons related to self-sufficiency. The ability to restore sight for blind or partially sighted people is one of the main challenges researchers face. A team of engineers from EPFL has developed a technology that can partially restore vision to blind people.
the team He developed a mesh implant that works with smart glasses equipped with a camera and microcomputer. The system is designed to give blind people some form of artificial vision by using electrodes to stimulate retinal cells. The camera included in the smart glasses captures images within the wearer’s field of view and sends the data to a small computer placed in one of the glasses’ finished pieces.
The microcomputer converts the data into optical signals that are sent to the electrodes in the retinal implant. The electrodes stimulate the retina to allow the wearer to see a simple black and white version of the image. Users will see an image made of points of light appear when the retinal cells are stimulated.
However, users will have to learn to interpret points of light to form shapes and objects. Researchers likened it to looking at the night sky and learning to identify specific constellations. One of the main caveats about the system is that it has not yet been tested in humans. The current test is being performed using virtual reality software to simulate what patients see with the implants.
Retinal implants contain 10,500 electrodes, each serving to generate a point of light. This was a challenge as the points had to be far enough that patients could tell the difference between two of them that were close to each other but packed densely enough to provide sufficient accuracy. Testing on the system is ongoing.