The Loss of an eye and a new Disruptive Technology?

, posted: 17-Nov-2008 17:19

The only thing with this story that I'm sad about is that this woman is not a Kiwi, maybe we should make her an honorary Kiwi.

This will no doubt do find its way to TV and all the media will pounce on it, not the least because most people will think it is pretty weird. I found the story by accident when following a tweet from NZStuffEnt about a new NZ ICT Body.

So the story on Stuff goes like this. Tanya Vlach, an artist in San Francisco lost an eye in a car accident in 2005 and has asked for someone to replace her prosthetic eye with a Web Cam with Bluetooth connectivity. She also wants a 3x optical zoom and an SD slot and the ability to take still photos. She told the NY Times that she could be used for a reality TV show or as a life recording.

As she said, this kind of thing has been in Science Fiction stories for decades and would be a logical extension one day, so, just like with my Location Innovation Awards, why not make one day, today?

This would fit quite nicely with recent topics I have been blogging about such as Haptic VR suits. If they can make prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the human nervous system, it shouldn’t be hard to create an eye that can be controlled directly, either through optic nerves, or by blinking to allow her to zoom, focus, switch it on and off (there are obviously times when you do want some privacy) and dilate to cope with bright light.

There are obviously some technical details such as the power required to run it and the Bluetooth Communications. Having done a lot of photography I know how much power is involved in zooming and adjusting shutters etc, but I’m sure there is a way, after all they can implant pacemakers and other technology that requires a modicum of reliability.

As to what to do with it. She would make a fortune just from telling her story, but the opportunities would be huge. Espionage might be unlikely because of a high profile and metal components, but chances are the military would be very interested in her experience as would other security services, irrespective of how discrete the new eye is or isn’t.

The company that gives it to her will be gifted a huge business opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this technology doesn’t already exist. I have previously blogged about contact lens displays for computing which are already under development. Some 30 years ago my grandfather became snow blind and was a guinea pig for a technology of experimental prosthetic eyes. They were big many faceted things that didn’t work very well, but instead of seeing nothig he could see shadows and knew when I was walking in the room. So this concept can’t be new. The big difference is that the technology development that I have been aware of was designed for the user to regain vision, not as a camera to be transmitted elsewhere.

So like the 6 Million Dollar Man, wouldn’t it be better if she could see everything a well as transmit it?

So if you have the technology and want to help her and yourself, she has a blog where she has her wish list specifications and you can make contact with her.

This is so cool on so many levels. Firstly from adversity comes something potentially better than she had before. She might hanker for more privacy one day but it sounds as though she is smart enough to sign a contract that will give her what she wants and let the people who develop it get what they want.

I could think of so many uses for this technology. I was interested to note that she did not list a microphone but I guess at times when she is recording for others, she could always wear a seperate microphone, somewhere, perhaps built into her watch or jewellery.

As well as law enforcement and military use, it would be great for all sorts of news reporting. I wonder how many situations are lost because people wouldn’t allow cameras into a scene of activity. William Gibson would probably see it used for marketers looking for the next big fad or selling the experiences of people wearing them to others, Philip K Dick would have had people rebelling against the Big Brothers who were wearing them and trying to find ways to shut them off.

Imagine using them in a sporting environment. How would you like to see exactly what your favourite sportsperson sees when they are playing? Bring in the Haptics again and you could see and feel what is happening. It’s not unreasonable, they already using sensing technology on top athletes to understand exactly how their bodies work.

Marketers are always looking for the next Christensens Disruptive Technology and if Tanya is successful, this could have a huge impact on so many technologies that people will adopt in the future. I wish her every success.

More information

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Luigi Cappel
New Zealand

Helping people getting their message to potential customers with blogs and social media.
Futurist and start up founder.
Passionate consultant about all things to do with Social, Location, Augmented Reality and Mobile.
Member of Auckland ICT Cluster
Chair of Computing and IT Industry Advisory Committee at National Technology Institute
Founding member and past president of the New Zealand Wireless Forum.
Past Vice President NZ Sales & Marketing Institute.