Scientists at HKUST develop 3D artificial eye inspired by science fiction

  • The Electrochemical Eye replicates the structure of a natural eye and may achieve higher image resolution than those of humans
  • While the device is better than normal cameras for restoring sight, actually using it will still need to wait
Wong Tsui-kai |

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The HKUST Electrochemical Eye (EC-Eye) artificial eye research team led by Fan Zhiyong and Gu Leilei. They’ve developed a 3D eye better than existing bionic eyes.

A team of scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has developed a 3D artificial eye which is better than existing bionic eyes.

The Electrochemical Eye (EC-Eye) replicates the structure of a natural eye in a novel approach to scanning images compared to using normal cameras.

The technology also has higher density than photoreceptors in the human retina, giving the artificial retina the potential to achieve higher image resolution than human eyes.

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Developed by Professor Fan Zhiyong and Dr. Airan Gu Leilei, the team made no secret of their science fiction inspiration.

“I have always been a big fan of science fiction, and I believe many technologies featured in stories such as those of intergalactic travel, will one day become reality.” said Fan, whose team has spent nine years completing the current study from idea inception.

“However, regardless of image resolution, angle of views or user-friendliness, the current bionic eyes are still of no match to their natural human counterpart. A new technology to address these problems is in urgent need, and it gives me a strong motivation to start this unconventional project.”

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Speaking to Young Post, Gu explained while their device is much better than normal cameras for the purposes of restoring sight, putting it to use is still a long way off. “Anything that involves biology is more complex and dangerous.” he said, describing a step by step process of testing outside the body, then moving to animal testing before it can be tried on humans in clinical trials. “It is very strict and it takes time.”

He also explains the advantages of mimicking the biological structure of the eye using nanowire light sensors instead of a normal lens and light detector in cameras. “You can get a clearer and more focused picture by following the curvature of the eye. You also have a wider field of view than just a camera.”

As for if he will personally use the device. “I hope not! That would mean I have a vision problem,” he laughs. “But if it passes all the steps then why not? Who knows what will happen in the future.”