Call to makers: woman wants webcam to replace lost eye


Kevin Kelly writes:

This is Tanya Vlach's new eyeball. She lost her real one in a car accident a few years ago. I met Tanya at a film festival recently. During our conversation she said she was looking for help in turning her artificial eye into a eye-cam. You know, a mini web cam inside an eyeball. It would capture live video and stream it to a memory somewhere and also perhaps eventually assist her own vision in real time. She confessed that she was not technologically adept enough to hack it on her own.
Eye-Cam Wanted


  1. Why not just have a lapel mounted, or hat-mounted one, or glasses-frame mounted one? The hassle of making it hygenic/smooth enough to work in an eye socket wouldn’t seem worth it.

  2. This is covered in the movie Doomsday. The hero has an electronic eye that she monitors, but can remove and record what she sees.

  3. Hmm…
    Thinking about taking the microphone out, and replacing the earpiece in this with one of these, then something like this to carry in her pocket and record. It would take some serious work (both soldering and re-writing firmware), but it should be doable for around $250 or so.

  4. I’ve been wearing a prosthetic eye for most of my life, and my friends and I have talked/joked about this sort of thing since i was 5, but we always inculde the ability to shoot lasers.

  5. My guess is this would have to be a blue tooth device. Also, I thought there was an electronic eye in development somewhere (?)

  6. Now that I think about it, I’d rather see a “prolific” guy get the first webcam eyeball, if you know what I mean.

  7. @5: it would be wired directly to her brain, of course.

    Shadowrun Cybereyes, here we come!

    (BTW: I think an SD card could fit inside an eyeball sized enclosure… perhaps a system where the eye splits in two so you can get at the card when desired?)

  8. Bluetooth eye?

    Could it see infrared have a HUD or something interesting?

    Here is a cyborg contact lens with some adaptable technology.

    I gotta wonder if a billionaire lost an eye or a hand if he couldn’t get folks to just build him one for a few hundred million.

    It seems like all the technology is there and just needs a year of intense study to create a working model.

  9. People will need to know the size and dimensions of the space in which the camera will fit. I know there are some very small cameras out there that will stream the video to a receiver. Someone should be able to fit one of these into a small sphere shaped space and include rechargeable batteries, while keeping the device hygienically safe. I’ve yet to see one of these with an optical zoom though and I doubt if there is one on the market. She should be able to get at least a 1.3 mp camera that will fit into such a confined space. -if so, a digital zoom should be good enough.

    I suppose there may be someone out there with enough expertise who can gut a camera phone, take out the camera and the electronics that run it and and store the video to a micro sd card. The best place I can think of to find someone that can do this is on there are some people on that site that have built and hacked some amazing things.

  10. I’m thinking that the split where the eye comes apart to access batteries or an SD card would be quite uncomfortable. You could make the housing smooth but have it come apart on the front, like around the iris.

    Inductive charging would be awesome. No need to remove it or cable it up in any way to get more power into it.

    The antenna loop for induction charging could possibly also serve as the antenna for a bluetooth or wifi link.

    Awesome would be the ability for the eyeball cam to join any nearby unsecured wireless network and stream video back to a server.

  11. Considering the existence of wi-fi SD cards for digital cameras, I can imagine this wouldn’t be too difficult right now. Maybe an on board micro-sd of 2gigs, with an automatic memory dump at regular intervals to a storage device in her pocket or purse (like a Zune). The largest issue would be battery power for anything longer than 15 or 30 minutes, if that.

  12. I know that our skin is pretty good at reflecting/dissipating radiation. Is wedging a bluetooth device into your eye socket really such a great idea?

  13. The amount of space she has for the camera will depend on how much of the eye was removed and how much tissue remains in the socket. There certainly won’t be a whole eyeball’s worth of space to play with.

    It would be useful to be able to project the lost peripheral vision into the remaining good eye though. She wouldn’t even need a prosthesis for that.

  14. I would think a more useful invention would be an eye that auto tracks with the other eye so no one notices her eyes aren’t aligning.

  15. #9: Though I love aspects of Shadowrun, I was constantly perturbed by the sense that an RPG set 50 years in the future was having a hard time playing catchup with the present…

  16. Total Shadow of the Hegemon rip off.

    Also, #21: Since the eye’s movements are reliant on the muscles surrounding the eye and not the eye itself, the prosthetic camera would move as normal — just like a glass eye does.

  17. 1) why not a lapel pin camera? Really? What is the benifit of loosing an eye if you don’t think about doing something cool? Remember the horrible magic movie ticket movie with killer with the smily face/target eyeball? (only good part in my opinion) Did you land at the wrong website? Why soap box derby when you have a car? why question things when everything is so gosh darn swell with the world? blah, blah blah.

    2) power, love the idea of induction power. First I was thinking about a nice cancer causing induction hat. Then better yet, waving my head around every time I walked through one of those RFID security gates at the store. Might as well make them useful. Somehow pull the power from your cell phone signal? likely not enough, and then people would start calling your eyeball asking if the refigerator was running…

    3) laser, yep, need a laser eyeball.

  18. People speculating above are vastly overestimating the space available in the eye socket of a person with a prosthetic eye.

    The cavity left behind, after the eye is replaced by a prosthetic, is not spherical. It’s more of a shallow concavity, much of which is filled in by a subcutaneous spherical implant, upon which the prosthetic eye sits.

    The prosthesis itself is more of a “shell” than a sphere.

    The amount of available volume, if the prosthetic were hollowed out, and still able to retain its shape and appearance, is less than that of a pea.

    No way are you gonna fit a working camera, power source, and memory in that space, with current technology. Sorry to burst all your bubbles.

    Believe me, I’d be first in line for one, if it were to become available. However, much like the poster above, I’d rather have a frickin’ laser beam.

    As for comment #21, that technology already exists, and most newer implants are probably done that way. If you’ve seen people with artificial eyes that do not move, it’s most likely because they lost their eyes before the procedure was pioneered ~15 years ago. Or they have shitty insurance that doesn’t cover it. I dunno if the motility peg implant is standard procedure these days, or elective.

  19. Well I guess this would give new meaning to “iSight Camera”

    Really sorry. Really really sorry for that.

  20. Keep it sealed and polised, with wifi or bluetooth for the connectivity and control, and induction charging: pop it out, sit it on the mat for a while, and you’re good to go.

    This should be doable. It’s the future, right?

  21. If she can already see out of one eye, the cost-benefit relationship of added depth perception probably isn’t worth the cost of making this. If she was completely blind I could see this being worth it, but c’mon, she just needs to sack up and roll with an eye patch.

  22. Hmm..

    While this MAY be possible, I’m thinking that it’s also going to be terribly expensive.

    You have to fit all of the following into a hygienic prosthetic the size of an eyeball:

    – Digital camera (video capable)
    – Circuitry to handle compression of video and basic file operations
    – Storage for video until dump
    – Bluetooth circuitry for wireless dump
    – Power battery capable of sustaining all this between recharges (presumably waking hours)

    Altogether, that’s a tall order. This would have to be a custom built device using bleeding-edge technologies. The privacy implications are also quite unsettling. Bluetooth is hardly the most secure protocol. It’s not too hard to imagine someone, for lack of a better term, HACKING YOUR EYE to see what you’re seeing in sensitive or private situations.

    It’s a neat idea, but it needs an incredible amount of careful planning to execute elegantly and safely.

  23. I remember something like this from Grant Morrison’s comic The Filth.

    “…and would you like to clinch the deal with some uninhibited oral sex? I’ll tape it for the Internet with my artificial eye.”

  24. What she needs to accept is that an eye-sized camera is boring she should use the eye socket as the place for her to anchor a much larger camera on an adjustable arm.

  25. I haven’t heard of any working artificial optical cameras, but I’ll keep an EYE OUT for one.

    *rim shot*

  26. There is already a team of people working on something like this. Unfortunately with current tech the best they can do is a pair of glasses with cameras on them, that feeds directly to the brain through a hole in the skull. And even then it requires a torso rig with all manner of boxes, cables and battery cells. And even THEN it doesn’t work very well, always shorting and theres no money to fix it.

  27. Yeah, if she already has a working eye perhaps something else would be more useful, like a USB memory stick in the glass eye or some other James Bond like gadget that would come in useful when captured by a villain hell bent on world domination.

  28. Yes, let’s ask a horde of untrained garage tinkerers with Dremel tools to create something that highly-funded medical researchers have been working on for decades without success!

  29. optics isn’t a problem – tiny lens and CCD exist to fit smaller spaces. Power source is the engineering issue here. You could turn the rest of the eyeball surface into a solar panel to provide energy to the battery. Also, could use inductive power transmission so the eyeball could be free of cable routing to a power source. The video out signal could be bluetooth to a small base for live view and/or storage – like a DVR system.

  30. Thinking about this, there’s no way you could fit the whole apparatus in the prosthetic eye (with camera, bluetooth, power source, and circuitry).

    The only real solution I can imagine is to just have the camera in there, and then have a tiny discreet cable coming out of the side of the eye that feeds into a larger box on her belt or somewhere (the cable could go behind her ear, down the neck and down her back under her shirt).

    I suppose the big issue with this is that it’s going to look extremely freaky. People aren’t used to seeing other people with a cable coming out of their eyeball. Wearing glasses might make it not noticeable if you don’t look to close. Sunglasses would be even better, but then how well would the camera perform?

  31. Agreed on the points that with today’s off-the-shelf tech, this’ll need an external component. It might be possible to cram a digital camera’s optics into a prosthetic eye, but that’s it.

    If she’s willing to get some brow or upper cheek piercings and subdermal wiring, though, there’s the interface from the camera to power and storage kept somewhere else – hat, glasses, Phantom of the Opera mask, what have you.

  32. Seems to me, it ought to be totally do-able. Presumably, the eye can be removed, and re-inserted, so you could charge it up, and download data, overnight.

    Poor JustinTV…

  33. Induction powered camera eye is a stroke of genius. I’m not sure the possibility of this, but if you were able to create an inductor that happened to be the shape of the rim of an eye glass, you’d have your power source set up. No idea if this would make the eye twitch uncontrollably. Bluetooth is a little overkill for this application, just stick a low powered IR LED in the iris and the receiver on the glasses. IrDA supports 16 megabits so that’s not a problem at all pushing VGA quality video to the glasses. Once it’s in the glasses you can push it to a belt pack or purse. – Hadlock from

  34. Is “confessed” the right word here? It implies she should feel bad about not being able to do it herself.

  35. Next week we have a presentation on this subject:

    “One-Eyed Documentarian to Discuss Bionic Camera Eye”
    Rob Spence, a documentarian from Canada, will share his amazing story at the 6Sight® Future of Imaging Conference, where attendees will hear the speaker discussing the real life bionic eye he is making to replace his lost right eye.
    Spence came to see an opportunity in his loss. He is constantly trying to film everything in a unique, high-tech way.
    “Eventually, it occurred to me that I could have a high-tech, wireless camera eye to replace the real eye that I lost,” he said. “I am close to a working prototype and have a film in development about the whole thing that will be called ‘Eye 4 an Eye.'”
    Rob Spence’s session, “Artificial Eye,” will be held Thursday, November 20 at 3:10 p.m.
    – Paul Worthington

  36. “Induction powered camera eye is a stroke of genius. I’m not sure the possibility of this, but if you were able to create an inductor that happened to be the shape of the rim of an eye glass,”

    See, now I am curious, would showing the image from the camera to the other eye, say through a small screen, help her depth perception and peripheral vision?

  37. wasn’t this in a latter Ender’s Game book; I can’t remember the title, but it was his step-daughter who recorded everything.

  38. the alphabet spooks will have solved this years ago. Get the bastards to share, the tech is useless now in high security environments due to improved scanning tech.

Comments are closed.