What you can see with a bionic eye

What would your life be like if you lost your vision? Researchers at UNSW reveal breakthrough bionic eye implant that restores sight to the partially blind and points towards future discoveries for the complete cure for blindness.

Video source: UNSWTV / YouTube.

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PROFESSOR NIGEL LOVELL, UNSW Australian Vision Prosthesis Group: The bionic eye would produce an image like this. As you can see, the image that's presented is by no means perfect, but it does allow a degree of independence, so it will, in the end, be able to restore some form of vision to tens of thousands of people in Australia, millions of people throughout the world. So it's a very exciting device.

This is our prototype bionic eye. It consists of two cameras that capture an image. They're mounted on these glasses. The image is sent to a processing unit and converts it into a series of stimulation commands that are sent to a transmitter that is mounted here, behind the ear.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR GREGG SUANING, UNSW Australian Vision Prosthesis Group: Then the signals come to an implant which is placed on top of the eye, with a small incision made in the side of the eye, so that we can slide an electrode array around to the back of the retina. It receives these instructions from Nigel's system and that causes a signal to go down the optic nerve and be interpreted as vision by the patient.

LOVELL: So here is our current generation of chip. This will be a very exciting development once it gets to humans.

SUANING: This is the latest chip that we have that's at the heart of the implant. So this particular device does 14 channels of electrical stimulation simultaneously. So what we're able to do with this device is repaint the picture to the patient much faster than we could before.

And I guess what keeps us going with this research is that we know at the end point is someone that really can't see anything is going to be able to see something with this device. And that's going to be a wonderful reward, and it get us motivated every day to do this right.

Seeing the future: the bionic eye

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