The potential of augmented humanity is starting to take shape

Shutterstock.com/ Hayati Kayhan

The developments taking place across the technological landscape at the moment are incredibly exciting. We are seeing computing power increase to incredibly sophisticated levels, developments of augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence to levels that will transform how we interact with the world. Communications platforms like 5G, the cloud, and fiber technology are providing a foundation layer for these applications that will continue to drive better speed and latency performances. One area that is incredibly exciting for many is the idea of augmented humanity.

Augmented humanity is the idea that we can actually attach or install pieces of technology to our bodies to improve how they work. While it sounds like a crazy idea from the future, we have been doing it for many years. Today people use augmented humanity for prosthetic arms, legs, hips and more. It is true though that the roles of these prosthetic devices are quite limited from simply weight-bearing to basic functions like holding and pointing. This is all set to change.

Today companies are experimenting with augmented technology that can enhance many existing organs and limbs that we have and replace body parts for those that are missing them. In the future, there will likely be enhanced solutions that you can add to your arm so that you have a screen on your forearm, or so that your eye can present data about the surrounding environment. The future of humanity is part robot.

Today we are only at the early stages of this transition but already we are making huge leaps. A team of scientists from the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong has now developed a prototype eye that is almost exactly like the real thing. The eye is one of the most complex parts of the human body and being able to not only recreate its physical shape but to recreate its functionality is incredibly impressive.

The eye has been designed for humanoid robots, those strange robots that now look more and more like humans but in the future, it will be possible to use the same technology to replace eyes for real people who have lost vision. To create this incredible solution was far from easy.

The first huge obstacle was creating a hemispherical shape that is similar to our eyes. The issue is that most smart technology is not yet small enough to shape an eye in this detailed way. The scientists had to use nanowire to create a spherical shape. These nanowires are the intelligent part of the robotic eye and play a similar role to the photoreceptors in real eyes. The scientists were able to fit a greater amount of nanowires in the eye compared to actual photoreceptors in real eyes, amazing.

The ability of this robotic eye to recognize photons is the same as an actual eye yet already it outperforms the human eye in a number of ways. A human eye will take nearly three minutes to recover from light detection but it only takes the robotic eye 40 seconds. 

The robotic eye is still in a stage of infancy but it is on an amazing path. To date, the eye can recognize the letters E, Y, and I. However, based on the build and incredible detail in this robotic eye it is clear that the complexity of the eye is possible to be recreated using technology. Imagine if this same approach was used to recreate the complexity of the brain itself. We are clearly at the beginning of an incredible period of augmented humanity and of robotics itself. While this eye can only distinguish three letters at the moment it has the potential to change the world.