We get a lot of questions about bionic eye technology and where the research is up to.
The short answer is that it is still very early days.
There are at least fourteen separate visual prosthesis projects operating around the world. Most are in their early stages of development.
Here is an overview of what a bionic eye is and where the Australian research is taking place.
Our local Australian teams have supplied us with information about how people might participate in early study.
If you are in another country, I suggest you go to the Wikipedia link and see where your closest research project is.
These universities are often keen to find suitable volunteers to assist with their research. They will be looking for people whose vision is an exact match to their study requirements so it won’t be for everyone. It really will differ from study to study.
It’s also important to note that much of the research is still about helping people which have had normal vision that has degenerated.
How Does A Bionic Eye Work? – The Short Answer
“The bionic eye is a retinal prosthesis designed to restore a sense of vision to people with profound vision loss due to degenerative retinal conditions. This technology makes use of a retinal implant surgically placed in the back of the eye, as well as an external digital camera and processor.”
Source: Bionic Vision Australia
How Does A Bionic Eye Work? – Step by Step
Although this explanation has been around for a little while and the technology is rapidly changing, this is still a useful explanation of the broader principles of one model.
How Stuff Works – The Bionic Eye
Who Can Benefit In Short Term?
Different technologies will benefit people at different stages of visual impairment. Bionic Vision Australia published an updated fact sheet in December 2013 which discusses who will benefit from the bionic eye technology that they are working on.
“Patients with profound vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration may benefit from the bionic eye. The bionic eye technology relies on the patient having a healthy optic nerve and a developed visual cortex – patients need to have been able to see in the past for this device to be of benefit to them. Those who have very profound vision loss will benefit most from the technology.”
Read the full Bionic Vision Fact Sheet
Who Is Doing The Work?
Australians teams working on Bionic Eyes have come together to form Bionic Vision Australia, a consortium including;
- Australian Vision Prosthesis Group at UNSW
- University of Melbourne
- University of Western Sydney
- Australian National University
- Centre for Eye Research Australia
- Bionic Ear Institute
- NICTA – Australia’s Information Communications Technology (ICT) Research Centre
Australia – How To Get Involved & Participate In Trials
Melbourne – Second half of 2014. To register your interest visit Bionic Vision Trials
Melbourne – Centre of Eye Research Australia – Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital
If you are interested in participating in clinical trials, contact Dr Chi Luu from the Centre of Eye Research Australia (CERA) on 03 9929 8172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melbourne – Monash University – Trials early 2015
People can register their interest in the program is www.monash.edu/bioniceye/trials.php
Clinical Program Coordinator, Collette Mann
Sydney – University of New South Wales – Volunteers needed mid 2015
Australian Vision Prosthesis Group
Professor Nigel Lovell – N.Lovell@unsw.edu.au
The International Overview
This Wikipedia page for Visual Prosthesis offers an international overview of where the research is being carried out and which aspects each party is working on.