Creating an eye that can be implanted in someone who has lost sight is extremely difficult, as there are very complex nerve connections, in addition to the structure of the eye itself.
Now progress has been made on this topic, with an artificial eye billed as the world’s first 3D eye, with the potential to see better than the real thing.
There are companies that have been working on artificial eyes for a long time, such as Bionic Vision Australia and Second Sight. The method used is to start with a kind of glasses with a camera in the center. The data from that is processed by a small unit that is worn outside the body and then sent to an implant in the user’s retina. From there, the signals are transmitted to the visual centers of the brain.
The problem with this system is that, although they do offer flashes of light, this vision is not clear enough to be able to walk the world. These eyes are also very slow to capture fast movements, so another approach was necessary.
A team led by scientists from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has developed what they call the electrochemical eye (EC-Eye).
Instead of using a two-dimensional image sensor like a camera, the EC-Eye relies on a real retina with a concave curve. This surface has light sensors designed to mimic photoreceptors on a human retina. The sensors are attached to liquid metal cables that mimic nerves, so that images can be captured with relative clarity. In the tests, they have already been able to identify large letters on a computer, as can be seen in this video:
Still, EC-Eye’s vision is still a long way from having the quality of a natural human eye, but it is the potential of the technology that is striking. More sensors can be put on the same surface, each connected to a separate cable, and over time the possibility of including infrared sensitivity (night vision) could be offered.
The research was published in the journal Nature.