When scientists want to test the performance of artificial corneas, retinal implants, and other visual prostheses, they typically require patients to be outfitted with one of these devices. Caltech scientists have now developed a robot that can “wear” visual prostheses and simulate how those might perform in the real world.
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 [Mark Tarbell, Caltech visiting scientist –ed.].
"We have the image-processing algorithms running locally on the robot’s platform—but we have to get it to the point where it has complete control of its own responses," Fink [Wolfgang Fink, visiting associate in physics at Caltech] 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.
Full story from Caltech: Caltech Scientists Create Robot Surrogate for Blind Persons in Testing Visual Prostheses…
Abstract in Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine: CYCLOPS: A mobile robotic platform for testing and validating image processing and autonomous navigation algorithms in support of artificial vision prostheses