The Past, Present and Future of Bionic Vision

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Figure 2[5]

    1. Technology of the Contact Lenses

A prototype has been created by Babax Parviz at the University of Washington. The lenses combined with a computer chip have the capability to connect to a wireless device and provide a visual image of the data that would normal display on the device into your field of vision. High –resolution images will be displayed before the user such as video games, texts, and music. Researchers at the University of Washington felt they could make a really tiny functional device that could be embedded into a contact lens. A metal circuit and light –emitting diodes are placed in a polymer-based lens where the lens is biologically compatible with the eye. Ultra-thin antennas, a few nanometers thick, are used to send information wirelessly to devices.

Figure 3[4]

Prototype of the contact lens

Fused with computer chip

3.41 Adaptive Optics

Adaptive optics is a technique originally designed to sharpen images for military surveillance devices and astronomical telescopes. In relation to the human eye, adaptive optics allows people to see at high resolution, but it also works in reverse allowing researches to capture detailed images of the eye’s retina. David R. Williams of the University of Rochester has developed an approach to obtain this vision [3]. The goal of adaptive optics is to improve human vision, but presently the focus is on preventing vision loss and correcting eyesight problems. This is done by collecting light waves with a deformable mirror which can be shaped to compensate for distortions in an image; then the mirror is coupled with a high resolution camera that takes images of the retina to correct the distortions produced by the imperfections in the eye. This method was used to help cure bad vision, however when people with normal vision used the adaptive optics they experienced up to six fold improvement in sight.

4. Proposed Work

My proposal involves the use of photoelectric cells implanted in the contact lens developed at the University of Washington [4], to take power from solar energy and an antenna to allow the contacts to function anywhere.

An important feature of these contact lenses is that they are wireless and hardware less device. It does not need to be physically connected to anything to work. In order to keep this device stand alone it needs a way to power itself without an accessory that needs to be carried around to do it. Taking solar energy to power these lenses solves this problem. The lenses would need to have photoelectric cells, which convert solar energy to electric. Just one square meter of a solar panel has the ability to power a 100W light bulb. A polar panel will need to be scaled down to fit inside the contacts lenses with material that is compatible with the eye. Some advantages of using solar energy are that solar energy is free, needs no fuel and produces no waste or pollution. Some disadvantages are it cost a lot of money to make and will not work well at night. However, once solar energy is no longer available researches at Washington University developed a way to extract minimal power from the antenna which could compensate for no light [4]. The antenna does this by collecting radio frequency waves and turning them into useful energy. The drawback of this method is if the user is in a place with no frequencies to pick up like the Amazon. So a system combined of both methods solar and antenna the contacts could be powered at all times.

I plan to hire experts in the fields of solar power, biology and computer science to assist with the project. With the proper research and development team this proposal can be done and will help advance the device already in progress at University of Washington.

Timeline: Two months

Week 1&2: Research areas that I am unfamiliar with.

Week 3: Develop materials that can convert solar energy and are compatible with the human eye.

Week 4 &5: Use those materials to create a tiny solar panel that will fit in the lens

Week 6: Implement an algorithm that will let the antenna and solar panel work together to power the lenses in any situation.

Week 7: Testing of device on animals or prosthetic eye.

Week 8: Final release.

5. Conclusion

We conclude that even though blindness is a large problem in the world, there have been major advances that may one day lead to everyone having beyond perfect vision. From the medical procedure involving a lot of machinery and time bionic vision has come very far. A person can now record their entire life via the EyeTap or possibly connect their contact lenses with a wireless device.


  • [1] Jennifer Anderson, “Bionic Vision: Rare Operation Brings Sight to Blind Woman” Ergonomics Today, 2005.

  • [2] Steve Mann, “Continuous lifelong capture of personal experience with EyeTap,” Proceedings of the 1st ACM workshop on Continuous archival and retrieval of personal experiences, p.1-21, October 15-15, 2004, New York, New York, USA  

  • [3] Corinna Wu,” Supernormal Vision, A focus on adaptive optics improves images of the eye and boosts vision,” Science News, 1997, pp.1-3.

  • [4] Alexi Mostrous, “And next- the contact lens that lets e-mail really get in your face,” TimesOnline, 2008.

  • [5] Boyle, J.; Maeder, A.; Boles, W., "Scene specific imaging for bionic vision implants," Image and Signal Processing and Analysis, 2003. ISPA 2003. Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium, pp. 423-427 Vol.1, 18-20 Sept. 2003

  • [6] Gregg J Suaning, Nigel H Lovell, Klaus Schindhelm, Minas T Coroneo,” The bionic eye (electronic visual prosthesis): A review, ” Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, 1998

  • [7] Brendan Z Allison, Elizabeth Winter Wolpaw, Jonathan R Wolpaw. (2007) Brain–computer interface systems: progress and prospects. Expert Review of Medical Devices 4:4, 463-474
    online publication date: 1-Jul-2007.

  • [8] Lotfi BMerabet, Joseph FRizzo, AlvaroPascual-Leone, EduardoFernandez. (2007) ‘Who is the ideal candidate?’: decisions and issues relating to visual neuroprosthesis development, patient testing and neuroplasticity. Journal of Neural Engineering 4:1, S130-S135
    Online publication date: 1-Apr-2007.

  • [9] Normann R, Maynard E, Rousche P, Warren D, A neural interface for a conical vision prosthesis, Vision Research 39(15), pp. 2577-2587, 1999

  • [10] 121 Suaning G, Lovell N, CMOS Neurostimulation System with 100 Electrodes and Radio Frequency Telemetry, Inaugural Conference of the IEEE EMBS (Vic), Melbourne, pp.37-40, Feb 1999

  • [11] Walker, B. N., & Lindsay, J. (2006). Navigation performance with a virtual auditory display: Effects of beacon sound, capture radius, and practice. Human Factors, 48(2), 265-278.

  • [12] Ninad Thakoor, “Aiming to help the Blind See,” University of Texas Arlington College of Engineering.

  • [13] no author, “ EyeTap: The eye itself as display and camera ,”EyeTap.
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