Here comes a sensor that can see without an eye

September 12th, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 12 (IANS) An eyeless sensor, inspired by the ability of the human skin to ’see’ colours and shapes, could make existing optical technologies obsolete. The futuristic model developed by Tel Aviv University scientist Lenoid Yaroslavsky can help explain how this primordial instinct, observable also in plants and animals, might have evolved over millions of years.

Although biologists contest the possibility, there is probably a scientific explanation for ’skin vision’. Once understood, Yaroslavsky believes, skin vision could lead to new therapies for helping the blind regain sight and even read.

Skin vision is quite commonplace in nature. Plants orient themselves to light, and some reptiles like pit vipers, which use infrared vision and reptiles, possess skin sensors that can ’see’ without eyes.

Skin vision in humans is probably a natural atavistic ability involving light-sensitive cells in our skin connected to neuro-machinery in the body and in the brain, explained Yaroslavsky.

He is currently developing imaging simulation theories relying on computer software that may lead to future devices with practical applications.

Such devices would incorporate special sensors for detecting terrorist threats at airports and radiation at sea, new night-vision devices or near-weightless mechanisms to steer spaceships to stars beyond our own galaxy.

Traditional imaging lenses only work within a limited range of electromagnetic radiation. They are still very costly, limited by bulk, weight and field of view.

The new lens-less devices could be adapted to any kind of radiation and any wavelength. They could essentially work with a “bionic” 360-degree field of view. Their imaging capability would be determined by computer power, rather than the laws of light diffraction, said Yaroslavsky.

Before these applications can be developed, however, he hopes to convince biologists to take a leap of faith and delve deeper into the mechanisms of optics-less vision. Their input could propel imaging research to the next level, he believes.

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