Michael Beyeler, assistant professor at UCSB Santa Barbara

The National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health sent a video crew to Santa Barbara recently to highlight the work Michael Beyeler, an assistant professor in UCSB’s Computer Science Department. The result is a fascinating preview of a transformative technology that could one day have a big impact.

“There’s up to six million people worldwide who live with profound blindness,” Beyeler explains in the newly released video, “and the idea of a visual prosthesis is to replace lost functionality with an implant. Even though these devices are already out there, the vision they provide is rather limited.”

With current visual prostheses, blind users are able to see something but not know what it is that they’re looking at. Beyeler’s work intends to fill these gaps, integrating AI and object recognition technology into the devices to let the user know, for example, whether the object they’re looking at is another human or a car or a trash can or something else.

View the video here.

“If a smart bionic eye gets developed through this research, It’s going to change the lives of millions of people around the world, not just myself,” says Jason Esterhuizen, a bionic eye user. “Blindness will not be an issue any more.”

“It’s my life’s work,” adds UCSB PhD student Lucas Gil Nadolskis. “It’s more than research. For a lot of people working with this, it’s a cool little project. For me it’s deeply personal. It’s the goal of my life.”

An audio-describe version of the video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlpG_WRLfw0.