There’s one thing you may have begun to notice about digital design and 3D printing: whatever you think might happen in the future is probably going to advance far beyond whatever you envisioned or thought might be a cool idea.
And literally, one day you may be envisioning your entire world, and recording it as well, through completely artificially constructed, 3D printed eyeballs. You may be able to say goodbye to prescription glasses and contact lenses — and even your camera, as your original retina is replaced by a new and digital network contained inside your head, and even able to be swapped out for different versions.
A little like the concept of dentures, the team at Italian research studio MHOX explains this as quite simply the idea of completely removing the organs of sight that you were born with and replacing them with a digitally designed and 3D printed set that meets — and potentially surpasses — your needs.
Ultimately, you could choose new 3D printed eyeballs to heal a condition, eyeballs to ‘enhance’ and correct your vision, as well as eyeballs to process images and record what you are seeing in front of you. The network of nerves and impulses becomes an artificial, digitally constructed one that certainly sounds as if it offers more, including the option to have vision that is even better than 20/20.
The MHOX futuristic, 3D printed concept is aptly named EYE (Enhance Your Eye). With hopes to reverse blindness and give better vision to those who struggle with numerous conditions, MHOX turned to the same technologies that are making quality of life better for many in terms of using 3D printing for medical devices, implants, and a variety of prosthetics that can be better customized and are more affordable.
“Latest developments in bioprinting and biohacking let us imagine that in the near future it would be possible to easily print organic, functional body parts, allowing the human to replace defected districts or enhance standard performance,” said MHOX partner and lead designer Filippo Nassetti.
If your eyes are functioning pretty well or at top capacity, you may find the idea of having them surgically extracted and replaced not only extreme, but very scary; however, for many, it might be worth the risk to have sight restored — and accentuated. Some may see this as exactly what they have been hoping for.
The 3D printed eyes are to be constructed with the use of a potential bio-ink that encompasses the obvious cells required to replace those found in a natural set of eyes. The bio-inks could be varied in different combinations.
Once an original pair of eyes are surgically removed, the MHOX research team has a concept for connecting the 3D printed ones to a ‘deck’ inside the head, which would actually allow eyes not only to be inserted — but upgraded as well.
“We envision that the link between the deck and the EYE will be based on attractive forces between the tissues more than mechanical joints,” said Nassetti. “To replace the EYE the user only has to put it in position inside the skull, and the tissues of the Deck and the EYE connect automatically.”
With the projection that EYEs would be available by January 2027, the team has proposed several models which explain themselves by name: EYE Heal, EYE Enhance, and EYE Advance — which would offer the ability to connect to WiFi. The Enhance and Advance versions work with a gland in the 3D printed eyes that, when coupled with the combination of an ingested pill, spurs on enzymes that respectively offer different color tones and visual accentuations, or allow WiFi communication and the actual downloading of images to a device. That may get more attention than the ability to ‘cure’ blindness.
MHOX has been quietly working on their research but came out with some of their findings and goals in response to the latest and controversial statements by musician Will.i.am that have sparked further conversation regarding ethics and the eventual 3D printing of humans. As the chief creative officer at 3D Systems, Will.i.am is well versed in 3D printing and certainly involved in propagating its use and further development, but he sees complications ahead and issues of responsibility erupting with such advanced technology regarding human life.
“Eventually 3D printing will print people,” Will.i.am was quoted as saying to Dezeen Magazine at a recent event. “I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just saying what’s fact based on plausible growth in technology.”
“Unfortunately that is the reality, but at the same time it pushes humanity to have to adhere to new responsibilities,” he said. “So new morals, new laws and new codes are going to have to be implemented. Humans – as great as we are – are pretty irresponsible. Ask the planet. Ask the environment.”
In response to the discussion that has opened up, MHOX released some of the details on the EYE product, which they’ve been working on for a year now.
“While in our opinion the 3D-printing of full human beings is still a far reach vision, at least for technical reasons, we believe that the 3D bioprinting of functional parts and replacements is a contemporary issue that designers have to start addressing,” Nassetti also told Dezeen.
If this concept, with the idea of also being able to upgrade body parts, were to be applied to the entire human body, it seems as if we might be just one step closer to never wearing out. Is this the path to immortality? How willing would you be to have your current eyes surgically removed and replaced with one of the futuristic EYE options? What are your thoughts on being able to connect to wireless devices from 3D printed eyeballs? Tell us your thoughts in the 3D Printed Eyes forum thread over at 3DPB.com.