Scientists create robot surrogate for the blind

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Washington, Oct 20 (ANI): In a novel study, researchers from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a remote-controlled robot called 'CYCLOPS'- implanted with an artificial retina - which simulates "visual" experience of a blind person.

They hope that the new approach would one day provide blind persons the freedom of independent mobility.

The artificial retina consists of a silicon chip studded with a varying number of electrodes that directly stimulate retinal nerve cells.

According to Wolfgang Fink, a visiting associate in physics at Caltech and the Edward and Maria Keonjian Distinguished Professor in Microelectronics at the University of Arizona, the robot or the mobile robotic platform, or rover is the first such device to emulate what the blind can see with an implant.

The 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.

The chip directly stimulates the eye's functional retinal ganglion cells, which carry the image information to the vision centres in the brain.

"We can use CYCLOPS in lieu of a blind person," said Fink.

"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," the expert added.

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 study appears in journal Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine. (ANI)

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