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 $42 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.