Scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have created a 3D printed bionic eye that could offer superhuman and night vision, according to research published in Nature.
Called the EC-Eye, it works differently from other current models. The conventional system consists of glasses with a camera in the center and a miniature computer, responsible for processing the images and sending them to an implant in the user’s retina. Then the signals are transmitted to the brain, resulting in flashes of light and unclear images.
In EC-Eye, on the other hand, there is no two-way sensor. It has a concave retinal model, equipped with several tiny light sensors, capable of imitating human photoreceptors, which connect to a wire bundle made of liquid metal, acting as an optic nerve.
According to the researchers, this new artificial eye, which can be reproduced on a 3D printer, brings great improvements, capturing sharper images. In the future, it will become an alternative to restore vision in those who have lost it, in addition to serving even those who have never seen.
See EC-Eye in action
In the first tests, the 3D printed bionic eye was able to register images with enough clarity that they could be read. The system was installed in front of a computer, which displayed letters individually, as shown in the video below:
Despite the good initial results, taking a few steps forward compared to current models, the EC-Eye still falls short of the human eye. But according to those responsible for the project, future updates to the system may make it able to overcome the natural eye.
One of the ideas is to use other materials in different parts of it, providing greater sensitivity to infrared light, that is, the user would have improved night vision.