How Powerful is the Human Vision?

Louis Armstrong once mused about “trees of green” and “red roses too”. But long ago, we were not able to see these colours, as our eyes were only basic light-dark sensors. Now, we are able to differentiate over one million colours! Despite evolutionary leaps, we can only imagine how much more the eye can see, if it possessed today’s vision-enhancing technology.

X-Ray Vision

Superman may be the most famous figure who can see through walls. But the ability is not limited to comic book heroes.

X-rays first gained prominence in field hospitals of World War One, when it was used to perform life-saving surgeries on many of wounded.

The ability to look inside a person before cutting them up saved many lives during surgery.

Today, the use of x-rays has extended into security measures, incurring the ire of some frequent flyers.

American air passengers have criticised airport body scanners as an invasion of privacy. They argue security operators are able to see through their clothes as part of the security process.

Thankfully, US authorities have now prohibited detailed images from being captured. Would you like being able to see through anything?


Imagine being able to see clearly in darkness.

Hollywood’s Predator VS Alien films are not the only space where night-vision technology exists.

Night-vision goggles were first used in World War Two, after German troops had trouble telling apart enemies from animals hidden in the vegetation. The devices were also crucial to US troops fighting in the low-light jungles in the Vietnam War.

Beyond the battlefield, night-vision devices have benefited sociologists in their observation of nocturnal animals. The ability to make invisible infrared light visible, is also used by Japanese tech giant Sony, in their new range of night-vision cameras, “NightShot”.

Telescopic Lens

If you have ever strained your eyes to read a sign from far, a contact lens might soon let you zoom in on it.  The nearly two millimetre thick wearable tech lets users switch between normal and telescopic vision by blinking, so now you can magnify on demand.

For the moment, its developers are working to improve the technology, making sure it can ignore winks and recognise blinks – so say goodbye to peering and straining!

But How Do Our Eyes Compare to the Average Camera Lens?


If you have ever been intrigued by a camera, you may have realised how similar its mechanics are to your own eyes. Essentially, both have an opening for light, a lens that focuses, and a light-sensitive ISO.

But here is where the similarities stop, because our eyes are superior in capturing life.

The biggest plus we have is our sensitivity to light. We are able to see things in the brightest of light, whereas a camera would just capture over-exposure.

That is because light affects a camera uniformly, compared to the human retina. In fact, research shows that our eyes are amazing modifiers of light.

After about 15 seconds in a dim place, our eyes adapt and continue to do as night falls, becoming nearly 600 times more sensitive at night than in the day.

In contrast, there are lighting conditions that even today’s more advanced digital cameras cannot capture well.

Technology aside, how do we fare against the most evolutionary advanced eyes today?

You probably know that the vision of the predatory bird far surpasses any others. Not merely used for seeing people and places, an eagle’s eye is wired for the hunt, so their brains are more devoted to visual processing than other senses.

As eagle attacks their prey from great heights, their eyes constantly adjust for focus and perception. They also have top-notch colour vision, and are able to see UV light, so the world is a lot more vibrant from their perspective!

Yay or Nay?

Well if we had their eyes, all of life would be brilliantly coloured, and we would have almost twice our field of vision – a 340 degree visual field. Also, we would be able to read signboards from miles away, that means avoiding a wrong turn on the highway.

For now, scientists are studying these birds of prey to see how we can get more powerful vision. But would you want to implant vision-enhancing tech or wait for evolution?

If it’s the latter, we wonder what’s the next step in the evolutionary race of sight – would we ever be as sharp as the eagles?

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