Humans are visual creatures. Of all our senses we largely rely on sight, our cues for survival rely on it and much of our brain tissue is dedicated to the process. And while all prosthetics are complex, as recreating normal physiology is extremely difficult, the eye is something else. In order for us to view an image, signals are detected from the environment in our eyes, sent along via a nerve and then flipped and processed in the brain to form an image for us to view. This is happening constantly as we move our eyes. When there is an injury that obstructs this process, blindness occurs.

A developing category of prostheses called neuroprosthetics is finding a way to complement nervous system dysfunction and become the link between the brain, nerves, and the rest of the body. Within this category, bionic eyes are being developed to supplement neural injury leading to blindness. One such example is the development of bionic vision system from Monash Vision Group called the Gennaris.

Targeted for those with blindness or a severe visual impairment, Gennaris is a two part system of headwear with a camera and an implantable brain chip. While normally we rely on the retina in our eyes to receive images and then send signals to the brain via the optic nerve, Gennaris plans to bypass this process and send the signal straight to the brain from its camera into an implanted brain chip, which will then stimulate the visual cortex of the brain which processes images. This involves some retraining of the brain to adapt to this system, but for those that currently live in the dark this offers much hope.

The Monash Vision Group is still seeking funding to continue to develop this project for release in 2015, please contact them if you would like to contribute.