Robots need to have human-like eyes, with pupils that react the same as ours, with internal muscles that allow light to enter more or less depending on the environment … static glass eyes are not practical, we have to go further .
Thinking about the subject, Carl Strathearn, a researcher at Edinburgh Napier University, decided to collect data on a classic that was ahead of its time, Jabba the Hutt and his fantastic eyes.
Comment in an article by theconversation which aimed to create robotic eyes that react to both light and emotions using an artificial muscle. To do this, he spoke with John Coppinger, one of Jabba the Hutt’s engineers in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, a 1983 film.
Coppinger designed Jabba’s dilated eyes, and helped create an updated system for creating robot eyes using current technology:
[…] after more than four years of laboratory experiments to obtain the right materials […] We replicated the soft tissue of the human iris, we 3D printed a colored gelatin membrane using a digital map of a human eye. Unlike glass and acrylic, gelatin is natural, very flexible, and can retain an image.
To make the pupils expand and contract, just like humans do when they’re happy or scared, they made an artificial muscle from a stretched silicone membrane, coated on both sides with graphene. When activated, they squeeze the silicone membrane together giving a contraction effect.
Graphene is so thin that a single layer allows light to pass through it like a human eye.
The muscle is excited with electricity, and the area increases or decreases depending on the pressure. They used a flexible 3D printed material to hold the artificial muscles and sensors in place.
In this way they have created a robot eye that can respond to both light and emotion simultaneously, which will help us to interact with them more naturally.
They are thinking of using them for companion robots, although the possibilities are endless.