This article is going to focus on visual prosthesis. Look at the title and break down the words. Do you see what it is? No! Well it could be a bionic eye ball that can actually replace the human eye ball without mechanical materials that our natural immune system would normally fight off. A visual prosthesis is the proper name, but bionic eye is so much cooler to say. The bionic eye has been around for some 30 years and was first based on the bionic ear, or the cochlear implant. And now it has been advanced.
But first I need to clarify a concern. “Technology made us who we are. We are not reducible to technology, but it is one of our creators. And since we are also the creators of technologies we must care for them as we do our children & not reject them when they do wrong.” – Michael Shellenberger (Ecomodermist). I felt very strongly about that statement when I was writing articles about nuclear science and technology. There are those who just think technology is wrong, when in reality, it has made most of the world we live in. The Japanese did not give up on nuclear power because of one accident, nor should we be afraid to move forward with robotics.
Whether it is climate change, nuclear fear, GMO or vaccines, there are those apocalyptic hysterics that always seems to gather on the sidelines. It is also true for robotic, bionic and even stem cell technologies that have been developed to augment or enhance mankind’s deficiencies. Bionics is the most interesting because it directly affects me personally and several of my friends. Bionics will develop way beyond what we have today with micro-bionics when nano-technologies (more on that in future articles) are more common place.
Lost functionality caused by damage to the body is now being corrected with artificial limbs and organs that closely balance their biological counterparts. This is the goal of robotics as it applies to the human body. Human biology and robotic technology are now converging and it is like robots are entering our bodies. This bionics can give a person a sense of self worthiness without creating a super human (even though some of us would like this feature). AI, which I have mentioned in previous articles, is the one area of concern because it is possible to create an artificial intelligent agent that could out-wit us.
A completely organic bionic retina based on carbon, instead of silicon, is now being developed. Your personal i-Phone or the newer solar panel technology uses this photovoltaic material to absorb light and convert it to electricity. This material is used to replace a damaged photo receptor in the eye because it is also very lightweight and flexible. After very successful lab and animal experimentations, this technology will be tested on humans and within a few years (from 2014) it will be commercialized.
Cross-disciplinarity is the term used to describe how knowledge can cross over from one technology to another. The soft organic photovoltaic material was first researched for solar cells and proved very useful for i-Phone displays and skin coating on humanoid robotics. It has the ability to adhere neuron culture (from the brain) that it eventually made its ways into the retina research arena. The current technology only displays in black and white and several shades of gray and allows the patient to see outlines of objects. That is a whole lot better than all black. Will color be available? If you review TV technology over the last 50 years, I would be willing to go out on an artificial limb and say yes.