Bionic eye could be in use within three years

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) has created a bionic eye which it says could restore the sight of sufferers of retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

The prototype bionic eye, developed by BVA researchers at the University of New South Wales, consists of a miniature camera mounted on glasses. It captures visual input, transforming it into electrical signals that directly stimulate surviving neurons in the retina.

The implant will enable recipients to perceive points of light in the visual field that the brain can then reconstruct into an image. BVA expects to implant the device into the first recipient within three years.

Research Director of Bionic Vision Australia and Professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Professor Anthony Burkitt says the device will deliver life-changing vision for recipients.

"We anticipate that this retinal implant will provide users with increased mobility and independence, and that future versions of the implant will eventually allow recipients to recognise faces and read large print," he says.

Bionic Vision Australia chairman David Penington says he expects that commercial development of an implant at the back of the eye, responding to wireless transmission of vision, will become a reality within four years.