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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?