Scientists Develop 'Terminator' Style Robotic Eye Lens Controllable by Users
"Man is something that shall be overcome," wrote Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. "Man is a rope tied between beast and overman - a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end." Nietzsche's assertion was that humanity could be perfected through individual will and vigorous action here on Earth. Whether or not you agree with Nietzsche's philosophy, his words here allude to a larger point that can't be denied: humanity is not at its end state. This is particularly evident in DNA self-hackers, CRISPR experimenters, Elon Musk's Neuralink project, and those who tinker with Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), i.e., those who aim to improve human cognition, strength, and sensory perception with implants, exoskeletons, prostheses and other technologies connected to living tissue.
A group of scientists from U.C. San Diego has just made an extraordinary breakthrough in the latter category with a soft robotic eye lens that can be controlled by blinking and looking around. Their research was published in an article in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. The invention uses electrical signals – the "electro-oculographic signal" – generated by the movements of the eye to "control the motions and the change of focal length of a biomimetic soft lens. The motion and deformation of the soft lens are achieved by the actuation of different areas of dielectric elastomer ﬁlms, mimicking the working mechanisms of the eyes of human and most mammals." In other words, by looking around and blinking, the wearer can focus these soft lenses as though they were a natural part of the eye.
Best of all, the technology may even work in the blind. "Even if your eye cannot see anything," lead researcher Shengqiang Cai told The New Scientist, "many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal."
We're still a ways off from having Terminator-style eyeballs, but the future looks bright to the researchers who write that "the system developed in the current study has the potential to be used in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future."
Guess we'll see.
photo: Daniel Jurena/Flickr CC BY-SA-2.0