Monday, April 4, 2011


Researchers have unveiled a microchip which is expected to power the first functional bionic eye. BIONIC Vision Australia’s researchers have developed a breakthrough microchip which is bringing the bionic eye closer to human trials.

Bionic Vision Australia has taken delivery of a prototype microchip that would power a “bionic eye” implant intended to restore partial vision to the blind.

The five-square-millimetre chip was designed to be implanted in a patient’s eye, communicating wirelessly with an external camera and stimulating retinal cells to elicit vision.

Bionic Vision Australia announced on Friday that the chip – manufactured via the 65nm CMOS process in the US – was performing well in preliminary lab testing.

"This is a remarkable new microchip that has brought a retinal implant much closer to reality," said Gregg Suaning, project leader and associate professor with Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, University of New South Wales.

At only five square millimetres, the device is tiny but represents a significant advance in nerve stimulation technology.The design team incorporated never-before attempted features with this design and absolutely nailed every aspect.

The device is five square mm in size, but is said to be a significant advance in nerve simulation technology. The microchip is at the heart of the retinal implant, which stimulates the retinal cells to elicit vision.

While the current microchip announcement pertains to the first prototype (the wide-view system), work is very much advanced on this prototype, which has progressed through a series of preclinical studies to test the safety and efficacy of the technology.

A safe surgical technique has also been developed for implantation.Clinicians are now screening people with retinitis pigmentosa to develop a selection protocol for the first group of patients who will participate in tests of the device.

The wide-view bionic eye consists of a camera, attached to a pair of glasses, which captures images and sends them to a body-worn processing unit. A wireless transmitter feeds the data and power from this unit to a microchip in the retinal implant.

The microchip decodes this information and drives the electrical stimulation in the retina. These signals are then passed along the optic nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as vision

A system demonstrated by consortium member NICTA in February featured a wearable webcam that transmitted information to the implanted chip via a 402 to 405 MHz wireless link.

Bionic eye demonstration at NICTA TechFest 2011.

The chip featured 1024 electrodes to decode images using object and facial recognition algorithms from NICTA.NICTA researchers also intended the implant to feature electromagnetic coils that would detect eye movement and adjust the camera accordingly.

Researchers planned to perform the first full implant of the system in a patient in 2013.

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