San Francisco artist looks to replace lost eye with prosthesic webcam

November 18, 2008

(ChattahBox) — Tanya Vlach a San Francisco artist who lost an eye in a 2005 car accident, thinks installing a Web cam into her prosthesis would be quite a sight. Vlach, who now wears a realistic acrylic prosthesis, but she’s issued a challenge to engineers on her blog: build an “eye cam” for her prosthesis that can dilate with changes of light and allow her to blink to control its zoom, focus, and on/off switch.

“There have been all sorts of cyborgs in science fiction for a long time, and I’m sort of a sci-fi geek,” said Vlach, 35. “With the advancement of technology, I thought, ‘Why not?'”

But this might be more then a fantasy wish, as tech experts seem to think it’s possible. Mobile computing expert Roy Want told the NY Daily News the technology exists.

“It is possible to build a wireless camera with the dimensions of the eyeball,” said Want, a senior principal engineer at Intel. “You can find spy cams or nanny cams designed to fit into inconspicuous places in the home.”

Want said the camera, which would be encased in Vlach’s prosthesis to avoid moisture, could link wirelessly to a smart phone.

The smart phone could send power to the camera wirelessly and relay the camera’s video feed by cell phone network to another person, a TV studio or a computer.

In a world where eye cams are common, they might serve as a kind of computerized backup to people’s memories, Want said.

The eye cam could allow her to record her entire life or even shoot a reality TV show from her eye’s perspective. Vlach said she will let inspiration strike once she has the device.

“There are a lot of ideas floating around…nothing too exploitative,” said Vlach. “I don’t want to be a spy and infringe on people’s rights, and at the same time, there are amazing possibilities.”

Vlach’s challenge, first reported by tech blogger Kevin Kelly, has inspired blog posts from around the world and e-mails to Vlach from dozens of eager engineers.


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