Australian researchers develop 'bionic eye' to help the blind

June 7, 2013 at 3:18 PM
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MELBOURNE, June 7 (UPI) -- Researchers at an Australian university say they've developed technology that could help provide limited vision for many of the country's 45,000 blind people.

The Monash Vision system, developed by a research team at Monash University in Melbourne, allows blind users to make out objects and other people with the aid of a brain implant connected wirelessly to a camera that can be housed in a pair of glasses or worn on the end of the user's finger, The Guardian reported Friday.

Images captured by the camera are sent through a digital processor to a chip implanted under the skull at the back of the head that uses electrodes to stimulate the visual cortex, allowing the brain to interpret shapes and colors in the images, the researchers said.

Facial recognition software can help the user identify other people, while other custom software, such as technology allowing users to recognize and negotiate stairs, is compatible with the system, they said.

A prototype of the system could be ready in the first half of 2014, researchers said, calling it a "major breakthrough."

"It's the most advanced system created as it allows people to recognize different objects and colors," project leader Arthur Lowery said. "It means people can go into a meeting and know who is there and how many of them there are. People can venture outside because they can see trees."

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