Researchers at Australia's National ICT Centre for Excellence (NICTA) have developed a bionic eye in collaboration with Bionic Vision Australia and University of New South Wales.
The microchip will help restore sight to people with retinal dystrophy - a condition where photoreceptors, the light-sensitive cells in the retina, degenerate, leading to blindness, reports New Scientist.
When implanted at the back of the eye, light bypasses the damaged photoreceptors and the device directly stimulates retinal ganglion cells. Images are then projected through the optic nerve, eventually reaching the visual cortex where they are interpreted.
The system uses a head-mounted camera to detect light and sends a video-like feed to a processor that activates electrodes on the implanted chip. Since electrodes stimulate retinal cells, using more of them should result in better vision.
But according to Brian Mech from Second Sight, the creator of a similar implant, numbers aren't everything. Sometimes, the electrical current in flat microchips can activate more retinal cells, and passing nerve fibres, than intended - so what patients see is not as accurate.
The team will start patient trials with the first model in 2013.
At this time, the second generation of the chip will begin biocompatibility tests.