Bionic eye technology developed at UNSW is giving Sydney a glimpse of the future of sight in an exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum.
A bionic vision prosthesis developed at UNSW's Centre for Implantable Bionics is featured in Living in a Sensory World, an exhibition showcasing how blind and vision-impaired Australians go about their daily lives and some of the technologies they use.
The Centre, in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, is part of the Bionic Vision Australia consortium, which is aiming to have a prototype device ready for human implantation by 2012.
Centre co-director, Associate Professor Gregg Suaning, said the Powerhouse display features his group's first bionic eye chip, a 100-channel device, as well as illustrations to show how the system works.
"Part of the display is a mannequin wearing a pair of camera glasses that feed to a display on a monitor - this shows what a blind person might see with the device," he said.
"The display is interactive so that the person looking at the display can change the number of electrodes shown on the screen and judge for themselves how useful the present-day 100 channel system will be, and how many electrodes they think we'd need in the future."
The exhibition, developed by the Powerhouse and Vision Australia, features historical and contemporary items used by blind and vision-impaired people in work and recreation, including a cylindrical, rotating Braille map from the 1940s and "Sonicguide" glasses from the 1960s which use sound to identify objects.
Exhibition curator Linda Raymond said it was exciting to see new technologies which offered so much potential included in the exhibition.
"As people live longer, more of us will develop age-related issues with our sight," Ms Raymond said.
"All these new technologies will become more commonplace and used in a whole variety of ways that we haven't even thought of yet."
The exhibition will run in the Powerhouse Museum's Australian Communities Gallery throughout 2009 and will tour regional centres and interstate in 2010.
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