APL Retinal Prosthetics Tech Offers Blind Patients a New Outlook

Retinitis pigmentosa affects 1 in 4,000
people and can lead to partial or total blindness. Today through a new retinal
prosthesis and unique computer vision algorithms we’re helping to restore
visual perception for people with the disease. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics
Lab partnered with Second Sight the creators of the retinal implant and
device to help improve patient experiences restoring day-to-day
functions the system works by sending visual information from a camera and the
glasses to a sensor pack running the algorithms that outputs the scene to an
array on the retina but it’s extremely limited only 10 by 6 pixels get
displayed so this is what the user might perceive. The challenge for APL is to
develop those solutions that can better help patients get the most out of the
system and the images that they see so we first had to understand some of the
problems people were dealing with what are those simple things of everyday
life that they would most like to do again such as the ability to see faces
being able to face a person while speaking makes conversation much easier and more natural “Show me the cup” or the ability to
identify and locate objects knowing what objects are on the table in front of us. And mobility: can we create navigation cues to aid them while
getting around? Having the simple ability to navigate from one place to another is
core to maintaining a functional level of Independence. We also look to employ
the use of eye tracking for taking in more of an area currently patients need
to continually move to their head around to cover everything they want to
perceive all of our solutions help to increase independence and ease of use
and to get back some of what was lost We’ve been able to leverage a lot of the
work that we do here at APL and really apply to this project using deep
learning the computer vision a key area for APL expertise system design how to
run all the sensors and algorithms in a lightweight portable system that can
last several hours and can be upgraded easily such as a smartphone or
cutting-edge embedded device the research and testing we’ve prototyped a
lot of our algorithms with some already implemented on the newest prosthesis
from second sight but beyond the current system we’re looking at solutions to
really push the next generation products forward the rewarding part of a project
like this is getting to partner with industry and to really see the positive
impact it has had restoring vision improving people’s day-to-day lives and
knowing there’s still more people we can help in the future

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