The Google Glasses may be the big news in optics, but the real tech to watch might be the Australian cyber-eye that's set to begin clinical trials next year.
The Bionic Eye is the work of Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), a national consortium of researchers founded in 2009 with a $US42 million ARC grant. One goal of BVA is to develop technology to counter retinal degenerative conditions, like retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.
The multi-component system consists of a camera embedded within a glasses frame. The images it captures are transferred to an external processor (a smartphone or PDA) via a wired connection. Once processed, the system then beams the data via high-frequency radio to a microchip implanted in the eye. This microchip, placed in the eye's suprachoroidal space, converts that data into electrical impulses. It is wired directly to cells on the retina — the pulses stimulate the nerve, which transmits them into the brain. So, as long as the patient has a functioning optical nerve and a few retinal cells, this device will allow at least some degree of sight.
The view won't be quite the same as with a biological eye, though. The wide-view Bionic Eye iteration bundles together 98 electrodes to stimulate the retinal nerves and simulate light. This is good enough to allow a patient to see and navigate around large objects. The High-Acuity version packs in 1024 electrodes, which makes for a very detailed image, but imparts a much more narrow field of detection.