We've had our eye -- so to speak -- on Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) for sometime, and with the invention of a new implantable microchip it's coming ever closer to getting the bionic eye working on real-deal humans. The tiny chip measures five square millimeters and packs 98 electrodes that stimulate retinal cells to restore vision. Preliminary tests are already underway, and clinicians are in the process of screening human guinea pigs for sampling the implants -- the first full system is still on track for a 2013 debut. In the interest of future success: here's mud in your eye, BVA! Full PR after the break.
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Major advance for bionic eye

UNSW researchers have unveiled the microchip which is expected to power Australia's first bionic eye.

Associate Professor Gregg Suaning, of the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering and a project leader in the national bionic eye consortium, Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), said the new, 98-channel microchip, now undergoing preliminary lab testing, was a major step towards the goal of a functional bionic eye.

"This is a remarkable new microchip that has brought an Australian retinal implant much closer to reality," he said.

"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 they absolutely nailed every aspect. The result is mind boggling."

BVA Director, Professor Anthony Burkitt, said the production of the chip, a year after BVA received funding for the bionic eye project, represented "a major advance in technology".

"This microchip is at the heart of the retinal implant, which stimulates the retinal cells to elicit vision. It is an important component in the development of our first bionic vision system that may provide real, functional benefits for patients and make our technology competitive internationally," he said.

The microchip is performing well in preliminary lab testing. It will be at the core of the Wide-View neurostimulator device being developed by BVA, with the first full implant of the system in a patient planned for 2013.