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11 High Tech Inventions You Won’t Believe Are Real

Eyes are a window into the soul — but the latest technology brings functionality to our eyes that we never dreamed possible.

Eye tracking has applications from making programs more efficient to enabling people with disabilities to use programs without use of a handheld controller. For people with vision impairment, some of the latest technology can either cure or improve vision itself. Lastly, augmented reality offers the opportunity to overlay what your eyes see with information that brings context.

Some of these products are prototypes or the result of research, while others are already on the market. We can expect the most valuable technologies to become commonplace in the future.

1. Iris:
This concept camera comes from designer Mimi Zou and boasts the ability to control a camera completely with your eyes. Look through it to focus, narrow or widen your eyes to zoom and blink to snap a picture. Using our bodies rather than buttons allows for more organic capture of photos which lets us document the world differently.

2. Google Glass:
This wearable technology from Google, still in its early stages and available only to a select group, relies on voice commands, so users can interact hands-free. Earlier this year, the company patented the ability to recognize facial expressions, and now users can turn on the functionality to wink to take a picture.

3. Applications for Road Safety:
Eye tracking alone has uses in marketing and psychology, but paired with brain monitoring, it could enable safer driving. The combined result could detect when drivers are sleepy — motor accidents caused by fatigue fueled the research, which is being completed at the University of Leicester in England.

4. inFORM:
At MIT, one goal is to enable both surgery and physical repairs to be done over the Internet. The project allows a user to shape and mold a physical object — which was produced based on digital content — without being in the same room.

5. 3D Printed Eye Cells:
3D printing allows for the production of everything from guns to limbs, and soon, it could cure blindness. Researchers at The University of Cambridge were able to print adult nerve cells — in various patterns — and the cells survived afterward. The next goal will be printing multiple layers, eventually working toward being able to repair the retina.

6. SpecialEffect:
This UK-based charity began by enabling disabled children and adults to play video games and create music. Now the technology allows people with disabilities to create artwork including sculptures — simply by moving their eyes.

7. Applications For Writing:
Eye movements for spatial activities are one thing, but can eye tracking be harnessed for verbal applications? Researchers in France are finding ways for people without use of their limbs to instead use their eyes to write in cursive. It’s a complicated feat, because our eyes jump rather than move smoothly when looking at a stationary object; thus, the team uses a flickering screen to keep eye movements steady. This way the user maintains full control of what is created.

8. VisionCare Opthalmic Technologies:
For people ages 75 and older, end-stage macular degeneration causes loss of vision in the center field of vision, which makes recognizing faces difficult. A telescopic eye implant, recently approved by the FDA, will magnify a field of vision by 2.7 times, reducing the blind spots (and only used in one eye, so the other eye can maintain its ability for peripheral vision).

9. Argus II Retinal Prothesis System:
Also FDA-approved is the first bionic eye, called the Argus II. It uses light and dark to restore partial sight to people with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that most often results in full blindness. An electrode is implanted in the retina while a small video camera is attached to eyeglasses, which in turn works with a visual processor that the user carries around his/her waist.

10. ORCA:
A crowd-funding project (ends January 15) aims to bring the ability to use a computer to people with vision impairment. Screen readers, which simply read aloud the words on a computer screen are not new — but are usually costly. The ORCA is designed to be affordable for people who are unemployed or living in developing countries around the world. The company founder is blind himself, and the use of technology was critical in his life — and not surprisingly continues to become more important as the world becomes more digital.

11. Atheer:
The desire for wearable tech is strong. The Atheer could be described as a 3D Google Glass and is currently crowd-funding (ends January 31). The team includes an ophthalmologist who ensures the glasses are both ergonomically designed and influences the immersive user interface. Instead of pressing buttons on the device itself (or speaking), users can swipe through the air to navigate menus or take other actions. Touchscreens are so yesterday, so soon.

The trend in tech towards improving health and regenerative medicine will likely have many more applications for eyesight, and the rise in wearable gadgets suggest eye movements will be a dominant interaction in the near future.