May 08, 2004

A Sparkle In the Eye

JewelEye - Nederlands Instituut voor Innovatieve Oogheelkundige Chirurgie - Melles - Ververs
Jewelry for the eyes, literally! The technique implants decorations beneath the coroneal layer, enabling people to show off with a glance. Finally an alternative to eyeball tattooing and contact lenses.

[From Lorbus]

I predict this will be the next split tounge scare - there is something viscerally worrying to many about manipulations of the eyes (quite likely a built in reflex reinforced by the low pain thresholds of the eyes, since they are some of our most sensitive and fragile organs). Pictures of eyes draw attention thanks to our human-interested attention systems (just look at all the surrealist art) and eye jewelry is even more visually catching than split tongues. And of course it is risky like any treatment changing the body, making many doctors worried and willing to speak out against it.

Still, I hope it catches on. We need more human diversity, and maybe what implant research need is an influx of different new ideas. Implant science has always been directed towards bone replacement, biocompatible surfaces and a bit of reconstructive surgery. All medically unobjectionable uses, but always directed at restoring function or shape. Now we are seeing promising advances in tissue engineering too, but still within the curative/palliative paradigm. This perspective might be too narrow to find completely new and creative solutions. Adding decorations to implants poses many problems, and in solving them we might learn many useful things about the interactions between the body and artificial materials we would not see if the goal was just functionality. As an analogy, just look at how painting and coating were first mainly developed for aesthetic purposes and later became the basis for making materials more resistant to wear and corrosion and even adding new properties such as anti-glare optics and self-cleaning. These developments would never have come about if we had only cared for the basic function of our products.

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