First, there was the $6 Million Man (as anyone over 45 can remember). Then there’s The Terminator (just about everyone else). What is one of the things that the two fictional characters have in common? A bionic eye. And as soon as next year, such a device could become a reality, or at least tested among humans.
Professors from the University of New South Wales in Sydney have developed a prototype that could help blind people see basic shapes, writes Maureen Shelley of The Daily Telegraph. Professors Gregg Suaning and Nigel Lovell hope to have this medical device ready for human recipients by 2013.
The operation to implant the device will take about two hours, says Suaning. “There is a small silicon and platinum electrical array, which slides around to the back of the eye, everything is outside the eye itself,” he says.
After the operation and a month in recovery, the recipients will have the 98 electrodes in the device tested for vision. Shelley explains further on how the bionic eye works:
The processing chip in the bionic eye will be connected to a camera, and the images processed by a smartphone, such as the iPhon. The chip will then send electrical signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they would be decoded as vision, the researchers say.
Researchers want the device to help people see more than just light. “This is an aid to navigation,” Lovell says. “We’re hoping people will be able to distinguish doorways, drop offs and elevated obstacles, such as tree branches.”
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.