Towards a Smart Bionic Eye

Prof. Beyeler receives $1.5 million NIH Director’s New Innovator award to enable a Smart Bionic Eye

Prof. Beyeler aims to bring to the mainstream an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bionic eye that can generate artificial vision, in an effort to increase the quality of life for patients who are blind or visually impaired.

“I envision a smart bionic eye that could find misplaced keys on a counter, read out medication labels, inform a user about people’s gestures and facial expressions during social interactions, and warn a user of nearby obstacles and outline safe paths,” he said.

For his project, “Towards a Smart Bionic Eye: AI-Powered Artificial Vision for the Treatment of Incurable Blindness,” Beyeler has been selected for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award. The five-year, $1.5 million grant was one of 72 awarded this week by the NIH to enable exceptionally creative early-career scientists to push the boundaries of biomedical science and pursue high-impact projects that aim to advance knowledge and enhance health.

“I offer my sincerest congratulations to Professor Beyeler for having his innovative research recognized with the prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award,” said Tresa Pollock, the interim dean of the College of Engineering and Alcoa Distinguished Professor of Materials. “His novel approach of using recent advances in computer vision, AI and neuroscience has tremendous potential to uncover new knowledge and provide millions of people with useful vision through a smart bionic eye.”

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Michael Beyeler
Assistant Professor

Michael Beyeler directs the Bionic Vision Lab at UC Santa Barbara, which is developing novel methods and algorithms to interface sight recovery technologies with the human visual system, with the ultimate goal of restoring useful vision to the blind.

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