If you're an engineer or a student interested in working toward a technological breakthrough, Tanya Vlach has a project for you.
After losing her eye in a 2005 car accident, the San Francisco artist is calling on engineers to design a prosthetic eye for her that also functions as a Web cam.
Vlach is seeking an "eye cam" that is more advanced than her acrylic prosthetic. She wants her new eye to be able to dilate with light changes and allow her to control camera functions like zoom, focus, and power by blinking.
When news of her quest hit the Internet via a blog, Kevin Kelly's Lifestream, she posted her own blog entry with details of her challenge and hoped engineers would respond. There has been interest in designing her eye cam and experts say the technology to achieve it is possible.
Roy Want, a senior principal engineer at Intel, believes it is possible to build a wireless camera to fit inside Vlach's prosthetic and link it to a smart phone that could transfer the video to another phone, a TV studio, or a computer.
While this technology would allow her to record her entire life from the unique perspective of her right eye, she is not yet sure what she would use the footage for, though she has some ideas.
On her Web site, Vlach calls the project an "experiment in wearable technology, cybernetics, and perception." In her blog post she writes, "I am attempting to recreate my eye with the help of a miniature camera implant in my prosthetic / artificial eye. While my prosthetic is an excellent aesthetic replacement, I am interested in capitalizing on the current advancement of technology to enhance the abilities of my prosthesis for an augmented reality." She also provides the dimensions of her prosthetic, the specifications she's looking for, and information about her ocularist, who supports the project.
The ultimate hope is that through this project and more advancements, the camera could help Vlach and others regain some sort of vision.
As her search has gained more attention, Vlach discovered she was not the only one working on this idea. Rob Spence, who injured his eye in a childhood accident and later had it removed, has been pursuing a similar goal as Vlach and plans to have a working prototype ready by Christmas. The Canadian documentary filmmaker has been in contact with Vlach and they may work together to achieve their goal.
If the project is a success, it could not only lead to medical advancements for the blind, but experts think it could create a widespread innovation to digitize everyone's memory by recording everything for them to refer back to.