Being able to see without eyes. It sounds like a miracle, but in the not-too-distant future a new brain chip could allow the blind and visually impaired to perceive images again. PhD student Adedayo Omisakin worked on wireless communication from and to this innovative implant. He defended his research at the department of Electrical Engineering on Friday April 22nd.
None other than blind singer Stevie Wonder expressed his enthusiasm last week for the smart glasses developed by TU Delft startup Envision. These glasses are equipped with a built-in camera and offer users greater independence by reading texts or locating objects. But in order to allow the blind and visually impaired to actually see images again – admittedly made up of pixels – the camera in the glasses needs to be linked to an implant. That is the objective of Dutch research program NESTOR, a consortium consisting of scientists from various institutes, including the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, the University of Twente, Radboud University, Maastricht University, and TU/e.
Briefly explained: the camera images taken with the glasses that the blind person is wearing are processed in a mini computer, and subsequently transmitted wirelessly to a brain chip. The chip consists of multiple electrodes that stimulate cells in the visual cortex with electric currents, as Adedayo Omisakin explains. Within the NESTOR project, PhD student Tom van Nunen, project leader Mark Bentum, and Omisakin work on the wireless communication part. Van Nunen, who will defend his thesis later this year, worked on the wireless power supply of the implant, whereas Omisakin focused on wireless communication from and to the implant.