MHOX envisions a future of bioprinted
and enhanced human eyes

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Italian research studio MHOX has unveiled a concept to allow people to swap their eyes with digital-compatible versions.

Following Will.i.am's call for an ethical stance on 3D-printing humans, MHOX has shared its futuristic vision for a set of synthetic printed products branded EYE (Enhance Your Eye), which would prevent blindness, sharpen and filter sight, and connect the eye to Wi-Fi for recording and sharing visual experiences.

Enhance Your Eye by MHOX
Proposed enhancements for synthetic eyes – click for larger image

"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.

"This project is based on the idea of augmenting the sight sense, increasing the functionalities of the eye with ones currently handled by other body segments or external devices," he added.

The studio has been working on the conceptual project for the last year but released the details in response to music producer Will.i.am's controversial comments about 3D-printing humans during an interview with Dezeen earlier this month.



"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 told Dezeen.

Enhance Your Eye by MHOX
Synthetic eye – click for larger image

In MHOX's scenario, subjects would first undergo an operation to remove their natural eyes and insert a new organic component called the deck into their heads. This would act as a permanent connection point between the muscle fibres of the synthetic eye and optical nerves in the brain, allowing new eyes to be swapped and upgraded like electronic devices.

"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."

Enhance Your Eye by MHOX
Three proposed EYE products – click for larger image

MHOX proposes three synthetic eyes for different purposes, each formed from a 3D printer using "bio-ink" containing the different cells need to recreate human tissues. The printer would be able to switch between different types of bio-ink to lay down combinations of cells, eventually building up into full organs such as eyes.

The first product, called EYE Heal, simply replaces the natural eye with a printed version that has the same capabilities, for cases of sight deterioration, disease or trauma.

"Additionally, it is possible to preserve or change the retinal morphology and accordingly the identity of the user," Nassetti said.

Enhance Your Eye by MHOX
Diagram showing locations of EYE functions – click for larger image

Taking this a step further, the EYE Enhance product would include a "hyper-retina" that enables sharper vision than the 20/20 visual acuity considered "normal" in humans.

A gland incorporated into the synthetic eye would also aesthetically filter visual signals when activated by enzymes in specially developed pills. Swallowing different pills could allow the brain to process the images as black and white, sepia-toned or through one of the various filters offered by photo-sharing platform Instagram.

Enhance Your Eye by MHOX
Enzyme pills could be used to trigger glands in the synthetic eyes – click for larger image

The final model is EYE Advance, which would offer direct connectivity with Wi-Fi enabled devices.

Again using an orally ingested pill, a gland in the optic nerve that supports Wi-Fi communication would be triggered by enzymes. Once activated, images captured by the synthetic eye could be transferred directly to a smartphone or tablet as a live stream or as video clips.

Projecting current advances in bioprinting technology, MHOX envisages that the EYE products could be available by 2027.

"This project is a concept design based on an intuitive vision of how existing technologies might evolve," said Nassetti. "We forecast that bioprinting and biohacking would have made impressive advances by 2027."

"Moreover, often in the past design fiction has pushed the interest on possible technological evolution, leading the way to new technological developments and connected ethical debate," he continued. "We like to think of this project as a small step in that direction."

Enhance Your Eye by MHOX
Printing with bioink to recreate human eye tissue – click for larger image

The research studio proposed the EYE project to spark debate about the possibilities these new technologies could create.

"We tried to craft a future vision that hopefully would find both enthusiasm and disgust, since it implies a substantial revision of our current body perception," Nassetti said. "Also we believe it challenges the contemporary concepts of natural and synthetic. Most of all we hope this project would bring awareness and cultural exchange on the potential and risks of future bio-products."

  • The Office Stylist

    Wow, this is so cool! It all seems so futuristic. It’s hard to imagine it being implemented into our lives.

  • Joggl

    Hope Will.i.am will not take this too seriously and freak out ;)

  • Donkey

    Can we just skip all this and get straight to the X-ray vision?

  • Toby Jones

    So they had an idea and drew some concept pictures. There’s no story here, no news. I’m getting fed up with these vapourware articles.

    • Peter

      I agree the biggest problem with this piece is that we have no idea how to reconnect a severed optic nerve.

  • rexatasch

    These projects have the same value as concept art for a sci-fi film. Sure, they are interesting to watch, but have no real world relation, which is not a problem.

    The problem emerges, when we review these designs under a the rubric of technology, and doesn’t give them the conceptual credit they deserve.

    Every one of these blog posts, read like the news report about a potential alien apocalypse, when the real story behind it, is the discovery of a water molecule on Mars. I would prefer an extra conceptual category which give these great projects the credit they deserve.

  • Wow, really interesting…

  • Andrej Mikláš

    I had an accident in which my eye was badly damaged and I lost eyesight in one. Also my nervus opticus was torn apart and probably atrophied, does this thing also solves nerve-connection issue?