First steps toward a logical machine able to mimic the behaviour of the eye's retina have been taken in a joint venture involving the University of Manitoba and the Institute of Ophthalmology, London.
Dr Christopher Pedler of the institute told the physics section that the machine's 'eye' consisted of 2,500 light-sensitive detectors forming a disc about three centimetres in diameter. The individual outputs of the detectors were interconnected and processed in a complicated series of logic stages whose design was based on the known structure of the retina. Initially, the plan was to devise a machine able to recognise 30 different shapes.
Dr Pedler's work at the institute has shown that the retina has a far more complex structure than used to be thought, and that a great deal of computing is carried out there before a visual information is passed on to the brain.
Of all the elegant and complex seeing-machines that have so far been made, this one promises to be not only the most revealing in the scientific sense but also the most effective. Its practical advantage is that, unlike other machines which are based on scanning and can therefore see only very slowly, the Manitoba machine should be able to recognise a shape immediately.
With thanks to Michael Seely