Immersive Virtual Reality Simulations of Bionic Vision

Due to the unique requirements of working with bionic eye recipients (e.g., required assistance, increased setup time, travel cost), experimentation with different encoding methods remains challenging and expensive.

Instead, embedding simulated prosthetic vision (SPV) models in immersive virtual reality (VR) allows sighted subjects to act as virtual patients by “seeing” through the eyes of the patient, taking into account their head and eye movements as they explore an immersive virtual environment.

This can speed up the development process by allowing us to test theoretical predictions in high-throughput experiments, the best of which can be validated and improved upon in an iterative process with the bionic eye recipient in the loop.

Project Team

Project Leads:

Tori LeVier

Student Assistant

Project Affiliates:

Isabella Gonzalez

Research Assistant

Kartik Adimulam

Research Assistant

Ethan Roma

Research Assistant

Principal Investigator:

Michael Beyeler

Assistant Professor

Project Funding

R00EY029329: Virtual prototyping for retinal prosthesis patients
PI: Michael Beyeler (UCSB)

September 2020 - August 2023
National Eye Institute (NEI)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)


We used a neurobiologically inspired model of simulated prosthetic vision in an immersive virtual reality environment to test the relative importance of semantic edges and relative depth cues to support the ability to avoid obstacles and identify objects.

We present VR-SPV, an open-source virtual reality toolbox for simulated prosthetic vision that uses a psychophysically validated computational model to allow sighted participants to ‘see through the eyes’ of a bionic eye user.

We propose to embed biologically realistic models of simulated prosthetic vision in immersive virtual reality so that sighted subjects can act as ‘virtual patients’ in real-world tasks.

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