University of South Australia researchers are using their augmented reality expertise to progress ground-breaking bionic eye research in Australia.
The Wearable Computer Lab at UniSA has created a backpack wearable computer kit that will be used for vision simulation studies being undertaken by the Vision Processing team at National Information Communications Technology Australia (NICTA) and Bionic Vision Australia.
“Using our system, Bionic Vision Australia will run studies allowing anyone to see as close as possible what someone with a bionic eye would be seeing,” said Dr Ross Smith, Co-Director of the Wearable Computer Lab.
Dr Smith presented the system with PhD candidate Thuong Hoang to NICTA and Bionic Vision Australia last month. The wearable kit has received a very positive response with several more systems ordered to be built for research with sighted participants.
“This is the second backpack design we have developed for NICTA,” Dr Smith said.
“The new version was inspired with recent miniaturization of electronics that allowed us to build a more usable, lightweight, reliable and effective solution.
“The new backpack provides more processing power, has a reduction in weight and size, advanced battery technologies and is a more robust design to support trials.
“The staff were very impressed with the new solution.”
Nick Barnes, Senior Principal Researcher, NICTA, and Vision Processing Leader, Bionic Vision Australia, is looking forward to using the new system for simulated prosthetic vision trials.
“We are very pleased with the new solution,” Barnes said. “It is lighter weight, more reliable, significantly more comfortable for our volunteer participants, and has extra features that will broaden the types of trial we can undertake.”
Dr Smith said the Wearable Computer Lab team now has significant prototyping capabilities and is excited to use its capability to support research that aims to restore vision to those who have lost it.
Bionic Vision Australia is leading the work on the bionic eye, currently working on three bionic eye devices. The bionic eye system would consist of a small digital camera, external processor and an implant with a microchip and stimulating electrodes surgically placed in the back of the eye. It will be used to restore a sense of vision to people with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.
UniSA’s Wearable Computer Lab has been collaborating with NICTA on this project for a few years now, and following the positive response to the new backpack wearable computer kit, it has planned future directions for the system that will allow it to continue the collaboration.