We are an interdisciplinary group interested in using brain-computer interfaces as a tool to study the neural mechanisms of visual perception in people with vision loss and to develop advanced stimulation strategies for different bionic eye technologies, with the ultimate goal of restoring useful vision to people who are blind.
(Feb 23, 2021) Instead of focusing on one day restoring ‘natural’ vision, we may be better off thinking about how to create ‘practical’ and ‘useful’ artificial vision now. A Smart Prosthesis could provide cues to the visually impaired, much like a computer vision system talks to a self-driving car.
(Feb 23, 2021) In this poster to be presented at the Augmented Humans (AHs) International Conference 2021, we outline our strategy on using immersive virtual reality so that sighted subjects can act as ‘virtual patients’ in real-world tasks.
(Feb 18, 2021) We are excited to announce the lab’s first paper, to be presented at the Augmented Humans (AHs) International Conference 2021, where we explore different scene simplification strategies for bionic vision.
How can we return a functional form of sight to people who are living with incurable blindness? Few disabilities affect human life more than the loss of the ability to see. Although some affected individuals can be treated with surgery or medication, and recent advances in gene and stem cell therapies are showing great promise, there are no effective treatments for many people blinded by severe degeneration or damage to the retina, the optic nerve, or cortex. In such cases, an electronic visual prosthesis (“bionic eye”, Fig. 1) may be the only option. Analogous to cochlear implants, these devices electrically stimulate surviving retinal cells to evoke visual percepts (“phosphenes”). Existing devices generally provide an improved ability to localize high-contrast objects and perform basic orientation & mobility tasks.
However, the quality of current prosthetic vision is still rudimentary. A major outstanding challenge is translating electrode stimulation into a code that the brain can understand. Interactions between the device electronics and the retinal neurophysiology lead to distortions that can severely limit the quality of the generated visual experience.
Rather than aiming to one day restore natural vision (which may remain elusive until we fully understand the neural code of vision), we might be better off thinking about how to create practical and useful artificial vision now. Specifically, a visual prosthesis has the potential to provide visual augmentations through the means of artificial intelligence (AI) based scene understanding (e.g., by highlighting important objects), tailored to specific real-world tasks that are known to affect the quality of life of people who are blind (e.g., face recognition, outdoor navigation, self-care).
In the future, these visual augmentations could be combined with GPS to give directions, warn users of impending dangers in their immediate surroundings, or even extend the range of visible light with the use of an infrared sensor (think bionic night-time vision). Once the quality of the generated artificial vision reaches a certain threshold, there are a lot of exciting avenues to pursue.
Our group combines expertise across disciplines including computer science, computational neuroscience, and psychology. Joining us requires a specific mindset—realizing that we can’t all possibly know everything, but that everyone provides a specific piece to the puzzle (see below for our current openings).
Together we want to do science that matters.
We are looking for curious and talented individuals who share our passion for bionic vision. If you are interested in joining us, check out our Lab Manual to familiarize yourself with our lab policies.
We are hiring! The next opportunity to join our lab is Fall 2022 (application deadline: December 2021).
We are looking to fill an NIH-funded PhD position in computational neuroscience. The project involves developing computational and data-driven models of the mouse visual cortex in collaboration with Spencer Smith (UCSB), Michael Goard (UCSB), and Cris Niell (U Oregon). Contact Michael for more info.
For all other positions, please first apply to one of the following Graduate programs:
You will then be able to indicate your wish to work with Michael in the “Major and Degree Objective” tab under “Faculty Interests”.
Please know that we get a lot of emails from prospective PhD students. If you decide to contact Michael before applying to the program, you can make your application stand out by demonstrating that you have spent some time on our website and thought hard about why bionic vision is a good fit for your skills and interest.
We have several MS positions available for Fall 2021:
Please contact Michael to set up a time to meet.
We have a limited number of RA positions available for Fall 2021 (e.g., via PSY-199 or CS-196):
In general, students stay for several quarters (one quarter is not enough to get up to speed) and work for academic credit or on a volunteer basis. Students should have a GPA of ≥ 3.0 (University requirement).
If you are interested, please contact Michael with your prior experience and your transcript (unofficial is fine) and we can arrange a meeting.