PUBLISHED: 06:12 EST, 29 April 2012 | UPDATED: 06:20 EST, 29 April 2012
So far ‘bionic eyes’ have only been seen in sci-fi films such as The Terminator.
In that movie Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a robot with enhanced vision capable of scanning and analysing its surroundings.
Now Australian researchers are set to make computer-aided sight a reality, though not quite as sophisticated as the infamous cyborg’s.
Scientists from the Monash Vision Group at Monash University in Australia will begin human trials of a bionic eye in 2014.
The device will consist of a tiny camera mounted into a pair of glasses, which acts as the retina.
Images from this are converted into signals and relayed to a chip implanted in the brain.
‘The aim for this vision prosthetic is to be at least equivalent to a seeing-eye dog or a white cane,’ said team leader Professor Arthur Lowery.
‘While it would initially complement existing aids such as these, we believe the device eventually will replace them, and as the technology is further refined, become sufficiently sensitive to discriminate large print.
‘The microchips we are testing will be implanted directly on the surface of a patient’s visual cortex, located at the back of the brain. It’s estimated that each patient will receive a grid of up to 14 eight-by-eight millimetre tiles.’
Each tile, he explained, comprises a four-by-four millimetre microchip with some 500,000 transistors and 45 hair-thin electrodes.
When fully operational, these tiles will receive low-resolution, black-and-white images from an external digital processing unit connected to a high-resolution camera and relay them to the brain’s visual area.
The Monash research was welcomed by Professor David Garway-Heath of Moorfields eye hospital in London.
He told The Sunday Times: ‘This project has the potential to transform the lives of people with significant vision loss.’
There are about 160million people in the world considered clinically blind, with one million of those in Britain.
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