The Long Road to Artificial Eyes

The New Scientist reports on another small step on the long road to artificial replacement eyes. These are the days of slow, incremental work - but then the same was true of the internet 30 years ago. "Software that can be taught to refine the information sent from a bionic eye to its wearer is being trialled in Germany. ... These people report seeing light and dark and maybe some limited fuzzy shapes. But they don't have any gestalt perception. Eckmiller says the secret to improving these implants is to match the signals they produce with the signals that a healthy eye sends to the brain. One team in California, US, is trying to do that by building a copy of the retina's neurons in silicon. Eckmiller, along with colleagues Oliver Baruth and Rolf Schatten, plan to use learning software instead. ... It does this through a "dialogue module" that tries different settings while a user looks at standard shapes. The user selects the three settings that most closely match the real shape and the software then presents six more settings based on these three. Over time, the system learns to produce a signal that provides a more accurate picture to the user's brain. ... Currently the biggest challenge is to make a working device that interfaces with neurons properly."


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