How can we return a functional form of sight to people who are living with incurable blindness?

Main approaches for the design of a visual prosthesis (Fernandez, 2018) include retinal (A), optic nerve (B), lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN, C), and cortical approaches (D).

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, 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, a visual prosthesis (“bionic eye”) may be the only option.

However, the quality of current prosthetic vision is still rudimentary and does not differ much across different device technologies (Beyeler et al., 2017). A major outstanding challenge is translating electrode stimulation into a code that the brain can understand.

The goal of our research is thus to address fundamental questions at the intersection of neuroscience, computer science, and human-computer interaction that will enable the development of a bionic eye capable of restoring high-quality vision to people who are blind.

Rather than aiming to one day restore natural vision, we might be better off thinking about how to create practical and useful artificial vision now.

A nuanced understanding of the strategies that people who are blind or visually impaired employ to perform different instrumental activities of daily living (iADLs) is essential to the success of future visual accessibility aids.

What do visual prosthesis users see, and why? Clinical studies have shown that the vision provided by current devices differs substantially from normal sight.

Embedding simulated prosthetic vision models in immersive virtual reality allows sighted subjects to act as virtual patients by “seeing” through the eyes of the patient.

Rather than predicting perceptual distortions, one needs to solve the inverse problem: What is the best stimulus to generate a desired visual percept?

Understanding the visual system in health and disease is a key issue for neuroscience and neuroengineering applications such as visual prostheses.

How are visual acuity and daily activities affected by visual impairment? Previous studies have shown that vision is altered and impaired in the presence of a scotoma, but the extent to which patient-specific factors affect vision and quality of life is not well understood.

How does the brain extract relevant visual features from the rich, dynamic visual input that typifies active exploration, and how does the neural representation of these features support visual navigation?

How do people’s navigatioal abilities change in stressful conditions? How can we best train them for these situations? And how can vision augmentation be employed to improve situational awareness?

Neuromorphic event-based vision sensors may soon power low vision aids and retinal implants, where the visual scene has to be processed quickly and efficiently before it is displayed.