Towards a Smart Bionic Eye

The National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sent a film crew to UCSB to document the work we do as part of our NIH DP2 New Innovator Award.

“There’s up to six million people worldwide who live with profound blindness,” Prof. Beyeler explains in the newly released video, “and the idea of a visual prosthesis is to replace lost functionality with an implant. Even though these devices are already out there, the vision they provide is rather limited.”

With current visual prostheses, blind users are able to see something but not know what it is that they’re looking at. Beyeler’s work intends to fill these gaps, integrating AI and object recognition technology into the devices to let the user know, for example, whether the object they’re looking at is another human or a car or a trash can or something else.

“If a smart bionic eye gets developed through this research, It’s going to change the lives of millions of people around the world, not just myself,” says Jason Esterhuizen, a bionic eye user. “Blindness will not be an issue any more.”

“It’s my life’s work,” adds UCSB PhD student Lucas Gil Nadolskis. “It’s more than research. For a lot of people working with this, it’s a cool little project. For me it’s deeply personal. It’s the goal of my life.”

An audio-described version of the video is available below:

An extended version is available as a NNLM Discovery Podcast episode below (transcript):

Related coverage:

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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