A new mobile robot promises to aid developers of artificial retinas and other visual prosthetics by testing the endless variations of video filters proposed to improve their effectiveness. Look for artificial retinal implants to become widely available over the next decade. R.C.J.
Called "Cyclops," for its single video camera "eye," the wheeled robotic emulates the quality of visual scenes enabled by current low-resolution implants, performing navigation tasks that may allow engineers to perfect video filter algorithms needed to help artificial retina recipients. The main problem with visual prostheses is low resolution, but that can be partially compensated for by choosing the right image processing routine. For instance, if a patient is trying to find a doorway in a darkened hallway, there may not be enough contrast to perceive a dark doorway compared to the almost-as-dark wall next to it. However, if an image processing routine measured all the pixel values and assigned pure white to the lightest pixels of the wall and jet black to the darkest pixels representing the doorway, then a patient could perceive it more easily.