New research out of Hong Kong brings humanity one step closer to the existence of cyborgs. The study, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature, details the creation of a biomimetic eye prototype that features a hemispherical retina made from a high-density nanowires array that is the machine equivalent of the photoreceptors found in the human eye. The prototype could pay the way for ‘super vision’ in robots and maybe, eventually, in humans, as well.
The research comes from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Professor Fan Zhiyong and his colleagues. Fan was inspired by science fiction shows and movies and came up with the idea for this prototype back in 2012, according to the university. The idea of a robotic eye offering better-than-nature vision capabilities is nothing new, but actually creating this type of product is not without ample difficulties.
The trickiest part about imitating the human eye is its curved nature; for this reason, artificial ‘eyes’ currently in use feature flat surfaces, enabling them to only partially imitate the retina in the human eye.
“In 2012, I came up with the idea to use nanowires and external electronic circuitry to enable high-density sensors on curved surface,” Professor Fan explained. “The resulting biomimetic eye prototype, with distance among sensing rods minimized to three micrometers, has 30 times more sensors on the artificial retina than the real human eye.”
This has resulted in what is referred to as ‘super human technology,’ one capable of high-resolution imagery. The team plans for the faux eye to be used in medical robots designed to take care of patients. If bio-compatible materials were found that could be used for the eye, the prototype may even pave the way for use in visually impaired patients.