It has recently become possible to improve or restore sight for some people who are visually impaired or blind.
One technique is for surgeons to implant a tiny electrical chip into the eye to provide a stronger signal into the retinal cells. We're developing another technique that uses computer vision to simplify the visual scene so as to improve the ability of visually impaired people to recognise things around them.
This exhibit has interactive simulations that allow visitors to experience what the world looks like through each of these techniques and to explore the hardware that make up the next generation of visual prosthetics.
How does it work?
Retinal prosthetics come in various forms. One type is a tiny square with thousands of microscopic electrical pads that touch the cells in the back of the eye. Natural light comes through the lens of the eye , falls on this square and is transformed into electrical impulses that stimulate the healthy retinal cells. This produces small points of light that can be seen by a blind patient and help them recognise objects.
Another type of retinal prosthetic that is under development is a non-invasive and low cost prosthetic that may be useful for some people with very low vision. This device is worn like a pair of glasses and uses a small sophisticated computer to understand what is in front of the user. The computer behaves like a small robot, seeking out things of interest and presenting them in a simplified way.
Both these prosthetic techniques work because the human brain is incredibly good at making sense of the world with very little information.
See all exhibits from 2011