A researcher at Tel Aviv University suggests that humans might be able to "see" with their skin. Engineering professor Leonid Yaroslavsky hopes that through biomimicry, new kinds of imaging technology might be developed that forego obviate traditional optics. Yaroslavsky presents his theories on the subject in a chapter (PDF) of a new book titled "Advances in Information Optics and Photonics." From an American Friends of Tel Aviv University press release:
"Some people have claimed that they possess the ability to see with their skin," says Prof. Yaroslavsky. Though biologists usually dismiss the possibility, there is probably a reasonable scientific explanation for "skin vision." Once understood, he believes, skin vision could lead to new therapies for helping the blind regain sight and even read."Seeing through the skin" (Eurekalert.org)
Skin vision is not uncommon in nature. Plants orient themselves to light, and some animals -- such as pit vipers, who use infrared vision, and reptiles, who possess skin sensors -- can "see" without the use of eyes. Skin vision in humans is likely a natural atavistic ability involving light-sensitive cells in our skin connected to neuro-machinery in the body and in the brain, explains Prof. Yaroslavsky.