A physicist and engineer at the University of Arizona has developed novel retinal implant stimulation strategies that assist in bringing light back into peoples lives.
Use of the implant involves four pieces of equipment. First, a set of glasses with a built-in camera transmits video images to a mobile phone app. The phone then relays that information to a micro-processing chip implanted on the eye. That chip then sends a signal to another chip implanted on the retina that electrically stimulates the remaining healthy layers of an otherwise damaged retina.
The retinal implant chip is not bringing things completely back into focus for the blind, but it is helping those completely blind people begin to see light and dark, shapes and movement.
University of Arizona professor Wolfgang Fink together with a colleague in Germany is helping to refine this retinal implant technology.
A person with the implant can apply a variety of filters to the image being broadcast to their eye, depending on lighting conditions, then can refine the image they're seeing.
"We can enhance the visual experience of the implant carrier," says Fink.
To this point, Fink and his colleagues can provide a 60-pixel black and white view for users of the retinal implant.
"We needed a surrogate for the blind, which means a test platform which is available 24/7," said Fink.
Because Fink and his colleagues couldn't have a blind test subject constantly on stand-by, they built a rover with a camera that mimics the 60-pixel view of a retinal implant user.
"The camera would have the exact same resolution that the blind person would have on their implant," said Fink.
The rover was subsequently used for Fink's NASA-related research in autonomous robotic space exploration.
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