Get Regular Updates!
Search
|Seeing is believing: Australia’s bionic eye

Tech

Seeing is believing: Australia’s bionic eye

Seeing is believing: Australia’s bionic eye

Researchers are currently trialling a bionic eye system to help bring light back into the eye – and it's Aussie tech leading the way.

Seeing is believing: Australia’s bionic eye

In 1973, TV audiences were introduced to The Six Million Dollar Man—a TV show about an astronaut whose body was rebuilt using bionic technology.

At the time, the idea seemed ridiculous, with the show’s iconic line—“we can rebuild him”—becoming a well used trope in cinema in the years that followed.

Jump forward 45 years and bionic technology has become an important part of the medical world.

View Larger
Image|Universal Television
The Six Million Dollar Man helped introduced the idea of bionics to the world

Whether it’s a war veteran who lost a limb or a child born with a birth defect, bionics can help people overcome the limitations of their body.

But while many of the ideas shown in those early TV shows have become real technology today, there is a part we’re still trying to perfect—the bionic eye.

Eyes on the prize

Due to what we’ve seen in films, we imagine a bionic eye as something we can slot in like a missing limb.

Unfortunately, the idea is not so simple in practice, which has led Australian researchers to a different solution.

Melbourne-based Bionic Vision Technologies has been running a clinical trial for a bionic eye system since 2018.

The technology is a combination of external input from a pair of glasses connected to an implant in the eye.

It’s been designed with a particular disorder in mind, degenerative retinitis pigmentosa—a genetic condition affecting 1 in 4000 Australians.

View Larger
Image|Marvel Studios
Thor replaced his missing eye with a ‘bionic’ one in Avengers: Infinity War

Associate Professor Penny Allen is the lead researcher of the team running the trial, with four patients implanted with the devices.

Penny believes the technology could be a game-changer and notes the results are looking promising.

“All four patients have had a sense of sight restored and are in the process of learning how to use the bionic eye for mobility and other activities,” she says.

“They are only just able to see light going on and off and have to learn to interpret that information from the device and require training to do that.”

View Larger
Image|Bionic Vision Technologies
A diagram explaining how Bionic Vision Technologies’ eye works

Nuts and retinas

Bionic Vision’s eye works by collecting images from a camera mounted on a pair of glasses.

The images are then transmitted to a processing unit the user carries with them, which decodes the images for them.

These decoded images are then fed to an implant behind the ear, which sends them to the electrode array installed in the eye.

From there, the body does the rest, and the patient learns to interpret what the flashes on the array mean.

Video|Bionic Vision
The first version of Bionic Vision’s implant was tested in 2012

With only a mesh of white flashes to explain a vivid world, it may not sound like a perfect system.

But for those with no sight at all, it’s a huge step forward in recovering their independence.

While popping in a replacement eye is not going to be a reality any time soon, our understanding of the eye has improved immensely in recent years.

Who knows what we could be seeing in another 20 years?

We love science puns VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?