Bionic Eyes: A Dream to Come True Soon

“Bionic Eyes” may not be limited to the imaginative reflections in some movies only. Creating virtual visions and displays is very soon going to be a reality. The day is not far off when visual aids will be available to help vision -impaired people. Future lies with the holographic driving control panels and surfing the web midair with no visibility to others.

Scientists have now been successful in developing a microscopic technology for creating an artificial virtual display system or the “bionic Eyes”, as popularly known.

For the first time ever the manufacturing technique was brought to the microscopic level by the engineers of the University of Washington. It was applied for making a combination of a flexible and biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights. The contact lenses produced by the application of this technology create a display that generates superimposed images.

Vision scientists call it a ‘virtual display’ and find many application of this display. It will help drivers and pilots to see a projected speed of the vehicle onto the windshield. Video-game companies will also find these contact lenses very useful as these lenses will engage the players and they will be completely engrossed once they start playing a game. Thinking ahead , there will be a time in very near future when people will surf the internet midair with the help of a virtual midair display screen and no body else could see them doing this.

Babak Parviz, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington says, “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”.

Scientists have tested this prototype device on rabbits and no adverse effect was reported. This device has an electric circuit and red light emitting diodes for display. This “Bionic Eye” is very easy to install. It is as easy as a normal contact installation is. Once installed, the person will not even realize that he is wearing a’ bionic eye’.

Making this ‘bionic eye’ was no less challenging. It was a tough task to select the flexible organic materials suitable for contact lenses as this has to be very delicate. Manufacturing electrical circuits also involved inorganic materials, scorching temperatures and toxic chemicals. Researchers therefore used the layers of metal with thickness in nanometers for the circuits. These layers had almost one thousandth the width of a human hair, Light-emitting diodes were made up of such layers having one third of a millimeter across. A grayish powder of electrical components was then sprinkled onto a sheet of flexible plastic. With the help of “self assembling” technique, a micro fabrication technique, the shape of each tiny component was attached in pieces. All the pieces were then pulled in to their respective positions with the help of capillary forces.

This prototype contact lens does not correct the wearer’s vision, but the technique of making these ‘bionic eyes’ could be used on a corrective lens and devices thus made would never obstruct a person’s view, according to the scientists.

Scientists feel that there exists sufficient area outside of the transparent part of the eye that can be used for placing instrumentations. Wireless communication devices may also be added to such instruments in future. The researchers hope to power the whole system using a combination of radio-frequency power and solar cells placed on the lens, Parviz said.

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