Navigation Links
Caltech scientists create robot surrogate for blind persons in testing visual prostheses
Date:10/19/2009

PASADENA, Calif.Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have created a remote-controlled robot that is able to simulate the "visual" experience of a blind person who has been implanted with a visual prosthesis, such as an artificial retina. An artificial retina consists of a silicon chip studded with a varying number of electrodes that directly stimulate retinal nerve cells. It is hoped that this approach may one day give blind persons the freedom of independent mobility.

The robotor, rather, the mobile robotic platform, or roveris called CYCLOPS. It is the first such device to emulate what the blind can see with an implant, says Wolfgang Fink, a visiting associate in physics at Caltech and the Edward and Maria Keonjian Distinguished Professor in Microelectronics at the University of Arizona. Its development and potential uses are described in a paper recently published online in the journal Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine.

An artificial retina, also known as a retinal prosthesis, may use either an internal or external miniature camera to capture images. The captured images then are processed and passed along to the implanted silicon chip's electrode array. (Ongoing work at Caltech's Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory by Fink and Caltech visiting scientist Mark Tarbell has focused on the creation and refinement of these image-processing algorithms.) The chip directly stimulates the eye's functional retinal ganglion cells, which carry the image information to the vision centers in the brain.

CYCLOPS fills a void in the process of testing visual prostheses, explains Fink. "How do you approximate what the blind can see with the implant so you can figure out how to make it better?" he asks.

One way is to test potential enhancements on a blind person who has been given an artificial retina. And, indeed, the retinal implant research team does this often, and extensively. But few people worldwide have been implanted with retinal prostheses, and there is only so much testing they can be asked to endure.

Another way is to give sighted people devices that downgrade their vision to what might be expected using artificial vision prostheses. And this, too, is often done. But it's a less-than-ideal solution since the brain of a sighted person is adept at taking poor-quality images and processing them in various ways, adding detail as needed. This processing is what allows most people to see in dim light, for example, or through smoke or fog.

"A sighted person's objectivity is impaired," Fink says. "They may not be able to get to the level of what a blind person truly experiences."

Enter one more possible solution: CYCLOPS. "We can use CYCLOPS in lieu of a blind person," Fink explains. "We can equip it with a camera just like what a blind person would have with a retinal prosthesis, and that puts us in the unique position of being able to dictate what the robot receives as visual input."

Now, if scientists want to see how much better the resolution is when a retinal prosthesis has an array of 50 pixels as opposed to 16 pixels, they can try both out on CYCLOPS. They might do this by asking the robot to follow a black line down a white-tiled hallway, or seeing if it can findand entera darkened doorway.

"We're not quite at that stage yet," Fink cautions, referring to such independent maneuvering.

CYCLOPS's camera is gimballed, which means it can emulate left-to-right and up-and-down head movements. The input from the camera runs through the onboard computing platform, which does real-time image processing. For now, however, the platform itself is moved around remotely, via a joystick. "The platform can be operated from anywhere in the world, through its wireless Internet connection," says Tarbell.

"We have the image-processing algorithms running locally on the robot's platformbut we have to get it to the point where it has complete control of its own responses," Fink says.

Once that's done, he adds, "we can run many, many tests without bothering the blind prosthesis carriers."

Among the things they hope to learn from such testing is how to enhance a workplace or living environment to make it more accessible to a blind person with a particular vision implant. If CYCLOPS can use computer-enhanced images from a 50-pixel array to make its way safely through a room with a chair in one corner, a sofa along the wall, and a coffee table in the middle, then there is a good chance that a blind person with a 50-pixel retinal prosthesis would be able to do the same.

The results of tests on the CYCLOPS robot should also help researchers determine whether a particular version of a prosthesis, say, or its onboard image-processing software, are even worth testing in blind persons. "We'll be coming in with a much more educated initial starting point, after which we'll be able to see how blind people work with these implants," Fink notes.

And the implants need to work well. After all, Fink points out, "Blind people using a cane or a canine unit can move around impressively well. For an implant to be useful, it has to have the implicit promise that it will surpass these tools. The ultimate promisethe hopeis that we instill in them such useful vision that they can attain independent mobility, can recognize people, and can go about their daily lives."


'/>"/>

Contact: Lori Oliwenstein
lorio@caltech.edu
626-395-3631
California Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Caltech scientists get detailed glimpse of chemoreceptor architecture in bacterial cells
2. Caltech neuroscientists find brain region responsible for our sense of personal space
3. Caltech researchers explore how cells reconcile mixed messages in decisions about growth
4. Caltech scientists reveal how neuronal activity is timed in brains memory-making circuits
5. Caltech scientists show why anti-HIV antibodies are ineffective at blocking infection
6. Caltech scientists control complex nucleation processes using DNA origami seeds
7. Caltech researchers train computers to analyze fruit-fly behavior
8. Caltech and UCSD researchers shed light on how proteins find their shapes
9. Caltech researchers help unlock the secrets of gene regulatory networks
10. Caltech researchers get first look at how groups of cells coordinate their movements
11. Caltech scientists show function of helical band in heart
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Caltech scientists create robot surrogate for blind persons in testing visual prostheses
(Date:4/26/2016)... DUBLIN , April 27, 2016 ... of the  "Global Multi-modal Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report ... ) , The analysts forecast ... a CAGR of 15.49% during the period 2016-2020.  ... a number of sectors such as the healthcare, ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... 15, 2016 Research and ... Biometrics Market 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... , ,The global gait biometrics market is expected ... the period 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates ... be used to compute factors that are not ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... BOCA RATON, Florida , March 31, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... LEGX ) ("LegacyXChange" or the "Company") ... presentation for potential users of its soon to be ... The video ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyTLBzmZogV1y2D6bDkBX5g ) will also ... by the use of DNA technology to an industry ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/23/2016)... ... ... blood donations in South Texas and across the nation is growing. , But according to ... are on the decline. In fact, donations across the country are at their lowest point ... the last four years alone. , There is no substitute for blood. , “We want ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. (NYSE and ... that its Board of Directors has approved the payment of ... of 2016. The cash dividend of $0.24 ... 2016 to stockholders of record as of the close of ... subject to approval of the Board of Directors and may ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... and LONDON , May 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... See Frontage Boost Efficiency by 40% - Frontage Implement ... - Frontage Enforce Quality, Compliance and Traceability Within the Bioanalytical lab ... labs in the United States and ... to be deployed across its laboratory facilities. In addition to serving ...
(Date:5/23/2016)... ... May 23, 2016 , ... ... focused on molecular nanotechnology, announced the winners for the 2015 Foresight Institute Feynman ... Feynman, are given in two categories, one for experiment and the other for ...
Breaking Biology Technology: