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Scientist Develop Bionic Eye. Sort of. August 12, 2008

Posted by Matt Brown in Bionics.

Truth be told it’s not really a bionic eye, but it’s the first step on the way to making one.  According to an article in Rueters, scientists in the United States have developed a sphere shaped (or eye shaped) camera that they say will help to improve the performance of digital cameras in the short term, but in the long term could be used as the first prosthetic eye.

According to Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who along with John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign worked on the device, the hardest part was getting the camera to conform to the curved surface of the sphere.   Bending it was out of the question, since due to the brittleness of the materials used the camera would have broken apart.  To overcome this challenge, they came up with a simple and ingenious solution.  “Huang and Rogers developed a mesh-like material made up of tiny squares that hold the photodetectors and electronic components. The squares are connected by tiny wires that give each component the ability to mold to a curved surface.” 

One of the benefits of building a camera on a curved surface is that greatly improves the field of vision when you are taking a picture.  “Currently when you take photos, the middle part of the picture is very clear but when you go to the edge, it is not so clear,” Huang said. “The curved technology will make the entire picture clear.”  The other obivous benefit to making a spherical camera is that if you are trying to make a bionic eye, it better damn well look like a human eye.

While the technology is promising it still has a few major hurdles to overcome before we can even think of using it as prosthetic, namely how to have the brain process the images taken by the eye/camera.  While we are currently able to rudimently interface prosthetic devices with nerves, allowing us to move a bionic arm for example, interfacing with the brain is a much trickier prospect.   Another stumbling block is how to power the camera, as a battery would need to be recharged at regular intervals and, while a viable option, would be quite a hassel.  Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say, and Huang and Rogers seem excited at that prospect of the challenge.




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