We often think of cyborgs as something to anticipate in the distant future even though many people today are already technically cyborgs. (Remember: a cyborg is just a being that has both organic and mechanic body parts.) Take, for instance, women who have birth control implants – bet you don’t consider them to be cyborg bodyhackers, but they are. Consider also the growing movement of people who implant RFID chips and magnets beneath their skin. Now, thanks to 3D printing, it’s easier than ever to get a mechanical implant and not get tetanus as a result. Where our bodies fail, tech implants pick up the slack.
Take for instance John Jameson, who was blind for over forty years because of an infection. A new eye transplant procedure restored his vision via bionic eye implant. He’s not the only one to undergo such a procedure; in the past two years, numerous other blind people have as well. However, it’s not easy to get one of these implants, even though it has the power to change someone’s life forever. The first such implant cost roughly $217,000. Even now, with the procedure becoming more common, it still costs $2000-8,000. It’s no surprise then that most of the patients on the receiving ends of these life-changing eyes are people from wealthy countries with robust health care systems.
Of course, bionic eyes are complex and require a professional to install them through a majorly invasive surgery, so it makes sense that they’re expensive. Even still, don’t lose hope yet; the first 3D printed bionic eye was a success, which means that it’s possible to mass produce them easily and cost-effectively (though the printer in this instance does cost $20,000), a factor which should drive down the price.
Despite how sophisticated bionic eye technology is, it is important to keep in mind that bionic eyes still do not capture the full range of detail human eyes can. "These devices involve long surgeries and they don't restore anything close to normal vision,” warns Associate Professor of Psychology Ione Fine, who helped create the below video to show people what it’s like to see with a bionic eye. But hey, you have to start somewhere.