Will talk about: Monash Vision Group’s Cortical Bionic Eye System: a wireless cortical stimulator
Arthur Lowery is an electrical engineer with a long interest in systems engineering – specifically, the interaction of known sub-systems to produce highly complex phenomena. For the last 6 years, I have led Monash Vision Group from its inception through to preclinical trials of the full system. This has given me great insight into leading a multidisciplinary team, and focusing researchers on biomedical product development and verification.
I undertook my undergraduate studies in 1980 in Applied Physics and Electronics at Durham University, UK, and was also a Design Engineer at Racal Research in military communications systems. I moved to Marconi Radar Systems, then was appointed a Lecturer at Nottingham University. I developed computationally efficient models of semiconductor lasers, based on transmission-line models (of Johns and Beurle). In 1990 I moved to Melbourne University and worked in the Photonics Research Laboratory. Amongst other things, I developed a commercial product for simulating complex photonic systems, based on representing photonic components as icons on a computer – this gave designers great flexibility in trying out (simulating) different arrangements of fundamental building blocks. Phil Gurney and I, founded Virtual Photonics, which became the leading supplier of design tools for optical communications systems. In 2004 I joined Monash University as a professor, working on optical communications system, as I still do as a 2013 ARC Laureate Fellow and Science Leader of the CUDOS Centre of Excellence. In 2010 I applied my experience of systems design to proposing a cortical bionic eye, and this was funded to the tune of $10M as part of an ARC Special Research Initiative (SRI) in Bionic Vision technologies. This is now funded by generous benefactors, and has reached the stage of manufacturing and testing devices for First in Human trials. More recently, I am also working in the CIBF as a CI, with the aim of incorporating my systems engineering experience to brain-machine interfaces and also numerical modelling.
Monash Vision Group– comprising Monash University, MiniFAB, The Alfred hospital and Grey Innovation – MVG is developing a visual prosthesis based on a cortical implant. A cortical implant provides high-acuity vision because a large area of the visual cortex is dedicated to foveal vision. It also bypasses the optical system, eyeball and optic nerve. Thus it is suitable who have lost their sight through traumatic injury, as well as disease in the eyeball or optic nerve.
The implant itself is 7-11 autonomous tiles, each with a wireless receiver, 500,000-transistor mixed signal chip, and 43 active electrodes. The implant tiles are fed with power and data from a common transmitter. Sophisticated signal processing algorithms use information from multiple sensors to provide maximum utility for the user.
This presentation will cover the first five-years of this project. I will address the design choices that have been made in the initial stages of the project, and the challenges in manufacturing and testing the implanted tiles and system as a whole. I will address the multiple skill-sets required to design and test the device and the make-up of our 60-strong team. I will also address the possibilities of using these technologies, and our experience, to produce bidirectional interfaces to the brain.
This work is supported by the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative in Bionic Vision and Sciences (SRI 1000006), Monash University and pubic benefactors.