Artificial Intelligence can also help restore sight to the blind. In 1929, scientists discovered that stimulating the area of the brain that controls vision will allow a blind person to see phosphenes, or points of light. Some researchers are trying to use this fact to create a substitute for normal vision in blind people.
This is not the only way AI researchers are trying to assist the blind to see. In December of 2005, a Swiss company announced a successful implantation of their Learning Retinal Implant System. It replaced the communication between a retina and a retina’s nerve cells with its own data and passes this data on to the optic nerve in the brain. It is the most complex and far reaching retinal implant used in humans to date.
This system consists of an implant that is surgically inserted into the patient’s eye. A pair of glasses that contain a mini-camera and transmitter sends transmissions to a processor. The processor, about the size of a walkman, is carried around by the patient in his pocket. The processor will allow a previously blind person to see sizes, positions, movement, and shapes of objects. The patient will no longer need a cane or guide dog, and will become far more mobile.
Until these solutions are perfected and made widely available, pattern recognition technology of today can help blind people to read text that is not available in Braille. Pattern recognition technology works like this: the reading material is scanned into the computer, and the software “looks” at the characters on the page. The computer contains a library of words and their pronunciations, so it can match the written text with audible speech and read the text back to the user.