Meta’s mechanical eyeball is able to track eye movement and send the data in real time to test what looks like AR/VR hardware.
Facebook has been deeply invested in the field of robotics lately, and one of the company’s patents describing a human-like eyeball device covered with a skin-like layer is just another sign of the future of society. Now the company is no stranger to such ambitious projects. Just a few months ago, Facebook showed off a thin synthetic skin called ReSkin that would be able to replicate human-level sensations for robotic limbs.
The synthetic skin can sense a force as small as 0.1 Newton on objects as thin as 1mm in diameter, allowing robotic parts to manipulate fragile objects without fear of damaging them. For example, imagine a pentadactyl robotic arm playing with an egg or a grape without crushing it into an unrecognizable mush. A few months ago, Facebook also showed off a prototype haptic glove that will allow users to feel virtual objects in something like Meta’s ambitious metaverse.
But it seems the company is thinking way beyond that. A patent titled “Two-Axis Mechanical Rotating Eyeball” this Insider spotted describes an animatronic eyeball that has nearly the same volume as the human eye, and its outer casing is shaped like the outer surface of an actual human eyeball. But the similarities don’t end there, as they aim to nail down the fundamental design. “The outer casing may have a predominantly spherical surface representing a sclera of an eye and a curved surface representing a cornea of an eye. The cornea may include a pupil, wherein the pupil may be an opening in the cornea.” Readers may recall, Meta is already training her artificial intelligence to see the world around her from the same perspective as a person.
Fortunately, it does not fit in our skull
So what would a mechanical eyeball be used for? Facebook’s patent application indicates that such an eye can be integrated into an eye tracking system. Such technology can be used as a testing ground for advanced augmented reality/virtual reality hardware, like the company’s upcoming Project Cambria headset. VR headsets are known to benefit greatly from eye-tracking hardware, and what better way to do testing and training than to create “a robotic eye designed to look like an eye.” Additionally, the Mechanical Eyeball has a scalable design, which means it can be applied in more areas than just testing and validating wearable technologies for the Metaverse. But that’s not all. Facebook designs his mechanical eyeball so that he can collect eye-tracking data and transmit it to a processing system in real or near real time.
This opens the doors to minimal lag interactions in an immersive virtual world for VR hardware. But the patent talks about applying the mechanical eyeball in more areas than just “an optical and display system.” Robotic systems also feature prominently on Meta’s Weird Tech Experiment Table. In fact, the patent talks about mounting the eyeball on an animatronic device that “includes skin on mold resembling human skin.” This skin could very well be a modified version of ReSkin that can sense not only an external stimulus in the form of pressure, but also more human traits like temperature and electrical sensitivity. Implementing the learnings and baking them all on a small chip installed on next-gen wearable hardware can do wonders. For example, scientists have already developed mask-mounted chips that can track health data from the pressure of blood flowing through facial arteries. With all the billions at his disposal, Meta can really do some magical things here.
Next: Facebook’s Metaverse Gigs Are Really Failing, But Why?
Sources: Insider, USPTO
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