3D Bionic Eye: Towards the Dream of an Artificial Eye!!

Dr. Smiriti Sharma

1. Introduction:

God has made human body and its intricate and complex structure has not yet been replicated by human beings. But scientists are trying and in this almost impossible endeavour, nature is their biggest inspiration. Though the design of the human eye is also very intricate and not easy to replicate, still scientists all over the globe are trying to engineer it. Researchers have had some success with it after years of tireless work and have unveiled the world’s first 3D artificial eye. They claim that it can outperform other such devices and in fact have the potential to see better than the real eye.

These are called 3D or Bionic eyes.

According to https://www.britannica.com/topic/bionic-eye,

“Bionic eye, electrical prosthesis surgically implanted into a human eye in order to allow for the transduction of light (the change of light from the environment into impulses the brain can process) in people who have sustained severe damage to the retina.”

They can restore vision to people who have lost their sight, and probably even to those that never had it to begin with. Companies like Bionic Vision Australia and Second Sight are the frontrunners in this area and they have already implanted it into patients.

2. Mechanism of action of a Bionic Eye:

The basic structure of these structures from the two companies is the same. It starts with a pair of glasses with a camera in the center. A small unit is worn outside the body, which processes the data and sends it on an implant on the user’s retina. From the retina, the transmission of the signals takes place to the visual centers of the brain. They have been implanted on patients, who report being able to see flashes of light again, for the first time in years. But these are still in the nascent stage and the vision flashes produced are reliable enough to independently navigate in the word. The images are streaky and slow to catch fast movements. However, these are initial prototypes and the fact that the blind person can actually report seeing the flashes of light for the first time is highly encouraging.

A huge improvement over these is the latest development by a team led by scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). They call it the Electrochemical Eye (EC-Eye). Here, instead of using a 2-D image sensor like a camera, the EC-Eye is modeled after a real retina with a concave curve. This concave surface is studded with an array of tiny light sensors. These tiny light sensors can mimic the photoreceptors on a human retina, which are then attached to a bundle of wires. These wires are made up of liquid metal. These liquid metal wires behave as the optic nerve., which act as the optic nerve. After testing, it was clear that images can be captured comparatively clearly. This was then set up in front of a computer screen which displays large distinct letters. These were clear enough to be read.

3. Still miles to go:

This technology is close to the dream of an artificial eye but still lots needs to be done. Denser array of sensors should be used and each sensor should be attached to an individual nanowire. In addition to that, other materials in different parts of the EC-Eye can help users experience infrared and night vision. There is lot of promise in this technology. Hopefully, the strides in nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will lead to the realization of this dream of artificial eye for blind persons a reality very soon.