(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have created a robotic eye, the structure of which follows the structure of the real human eye and which at the same time is really able to see. An article about this is published in the journal Nature .
The research team, based on the structure of the real eye, repeated it, adapting it to the capabilities of mechanics. The size is approximately equal to the present – about two centimeters in diameter. Inside, it is filled with liquid electrolyte, the retina is made with the help of nanowires, and now few people can be surprised with an artificial lens: many elderly people, operated on because of clouding of their own, go with intraocular lenses.
In the real eye, light, refracted in the lens, reaches the photoreceptors on the retina, and they convert the photons into signals that transmit through the nerve pathways to the visual parts of the brain. This is one of the key stumbling blocks for creating efficiently working artificial eyes that could help people who have lost their eyesight.
The artificial “retina” membrane, which stands in place of the sclera, is made of aluminum oxide with tiny sensors made of perovskite, a hybrid photosensitive material that is used in solar cells. Nanowires simulating the visual cortex of the brain transmit visual information collected by the sensors to the computer where they are processed.
Scientists have tested the abilities of the bionic eye. He successfully distinguished the letters I, E, and Y without confusing them. Today, such a robotic eye can create very “rough” images: if a real eye gives a picture with a quality of the order of 120-140 megapixels, then an artificial one – only 100 pixels.
So far, the difference is many orders of magnitude not in favor of the artificial, but it is important that the principle itself turned out to be working. In the future, the picture can be “tightened”, and the main problem so far lies in the area of the “docking” of the mechanical eye and the human brain, that is, the connection in the zone of the optic nerve. Work on it will require considerable, especially if the device will need to be adapted to continuous wear. According to experts, this can take up to ten years.
Among other things, the gadget needs a power source: it is assumed that sunlight will provide it. In general, scientists are optimistic: such an eye is not just capable of being a “crutch” in the absence of its own. The authors of the work argue that the design features will provide additional opportunities. Nanowires are so sensitive that they can exceed the optical wavelength range of the human eye, allowing it to respond to lengths of the order of 800 nanometers – the threshold level between visual light and infrared radiation.
Scientists explain that this gives the ability of such an eye to distinguish objects in the dark – in conditions when the human eye is no longer capable of it. In addition, researchers argue that the bionic eye can respond to changes in light faster than the human eye, which allows it to adapt to changing conditions in less time. The quality of a picture over time can be an order of magnitude higher than that given by human vision.
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