Despite ongoing progress in the development of devices that aim to provide blind people with artificial vision, patients still report a significant difference between natural and prosthetic vision. The devices were indeed able to provide them with some visual sensation. Yet, they did not prove useful enough to recognize their surroundings and to master their daily lives. This raises the question of the most relevant characteristics for useful vision.
Diego Ghezzi’s Laboratory of Neuroengineering at EPFL tackled this problem by developing POLYRETINA which comes both with a higher resolution and field of view. But is this good enough for useful perception?
Before going through a clinical trial, how about first simulating prosthetic vision in sighted participants?
In this paper they put sighted subjects in virtual reality to test the influence of electrode density, electrode number and visual angle on performance in various everyday life tasks. They found that the field of view had the biggest influence on performance. This finding suggests that future devices should focus on increasing the field of view in order to be more useful in a patient’s everyday life.
Picture: In one task, healthy participants were exposed to a street crossing environment in VR and were asked to cross as soon as they felt that it was safe. Performance was higher with a wider field of view.