Vision of the future: Researchers build bionic eye

Nanotech could let travelers check Net, e-mail or play games on floating display screen

Talk about bionic eyes and most people hearken back to the Bionic Woman or other sci-fi shows. Engineers at the University of Washington, however, say it's not all movie magic fantasy.

University researchers reported that they have used nanotechnology manufacturing techniques to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights. Perfecting virtual displays could mean that traveling executives could surf the Net or check their e-mail on a floating virtual display screen that only they could see. It also would mean that drivers could see their speed projected onto the windshield, or gamers could become far more immersed in their virtual worlds.

"Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside," said Babak Parviz, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, in a statement. "This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it's extremely promising. ... People may find all sorts of applications for it that we have not thought about. Our goal is to demonstrate the basic technology and make sure it works and that it's safe."

Don't expect this particular contact lens to give you 20/20 vision. The latest prototype is not designed to correct vision problems, but researchers said the technology could eventually be used on a corrective lens without obstructing the person's vision.

Right now, the prototype of the bionic eye includes an electric circuit and diodes that emit red lights for the display. While the diodes are in place in the prototype, it doesn't light up yet. Researchers noted in a report that a major challenge was building the nanotechnology needed for the circuitry on delicate lens material. They ended up creating the circuits by layering pieces of metal that are only a few nanometers thick, and making the diodes one-third of a millimeter across.

Parviz said engineers will soon begin working to add wireless communications to and from the lens. He added that they hope to power the system by using a combination of radio frequency power and solar cells.

Parviz added that he hopes that putting in or removing the bionic eye will be as easy as dealing with a normal contact lens. Researchers said the prototype was tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes without any signs of adverse reactions.

The project was funded by the US National Science Foundation and a Technology Gap Innovation Fund from the University of Washington.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?