A major hurdle to an artificial retina has been solved

Shane McGlaun - Oct 15, 2019, 7:33 am CDT
A major hurdle to an artificial retina has been solved

Researchers have been working for more than ten years to create an artificial retina that might help the blind see again. Researchers from Stanford University may have found a solution to one of the most limiting issues with designing an artificial retina that can be implanted into the eye – heat. An artificial retina has a very small computer chip inside that has metal electrodes sticking out of it.

The electrodes record the first activity of the neurons around them to create a map of the cells. That map information is used to transmit visual data from the camera to the brain. The problem is that the eye produces so much data during recording that the electronics get too hot. Scientists E.J. Chichilnisky, who is part of the artificial retina team, says that the chips required to build the artificial retina would “essentially fry” the human tissue they are trying to interface with.

The team has devised a way to solve that problem by significantly compressing the massive amounts of visual data that the neurons create. The team discovered a way of extracting the same level of visual understanding using less data. The team says that by understanding which signal samples matter and which can be ignored, the team can reduce the data that needs to be processed.

The team says that its method becomes more selective and ignores the noise and baseline signals, digitizing only the unique spikes of data. In testing, the researchers say that their efficient data-gathering approach misses just 5% of the cells but reduces the acquired data by 40 times. They believe this is the first step to efficient and cool-running implantable chips that could work in the eye or other brain-machine interfaces.

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