Researchers create a bionic eye that could see better than the real thing

Scientists around the world have been working on creating an artificial eye to help restore vision to people who have lost their sight or potentially those who were never able to see to begin with. Some bionic eyes have already been implanted into patients, such as those by Bionic Vision Australia and Second Site. Both those devices have similar form factors that use a pair of glasses with the camera in the center.

Data from the camera in the glasses is processed by a small unit worn outside the body and sent to an implant in the user's retina. The signals are sent from there to the visual centers of the brain. The downside to these devices is that the vision isn't clear enough for the user to rely on it to navigate the world. The new bionic eye is called the Electrochemical Eye or EC-Eye. It's modeled after the human retina with a concave curve.

The surface has an array of tiny light sensors that mimic the photoreceptors of the human retina. The sensors are attached to a bundle of wires made of liquid metal that act as the optic nerve. The EC-Eye has been shown to capture images in relative clarity. It was set up in front of a computer screen that displayed large individual letters and was able to display them clearly enough to be read.

Scientists admit that while the new EC-Eye is an upgrade compared to the existing bionic eyes, it's a far cry from the real human eye. That will improve over time, and the scientists say that eventually, the EC-Eye could see better than the real thing.

There is also the potential to allow the user to see infrared, essentially creating night vision. That could be accomplished by using other materials in different parts of the EC-Eye. Scientists are continuing to work on the project with no indication of when it might be used on humans.