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Biotech Medicine

Aussie Government Offers $40M To Build a Bionic Eye 89

An anonymous reader writes "The Australian Government is keen to replicate the success of the Cochlear Implant (bionic ear) by throwing AU$50M (US$40M) of funding at the development of a bionic eye. Bionic eyes have been trialed with some success in the UK — with recipients able to detect senses of shape and space, but very little detail."
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Aussie Government Offers $40M To Build a Bionic Eye

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  • Yesss (Score:1, Redundant)

    by delta419 ( 1227406 )
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:11AM (#28182705)
    Fortunately, I was already digging up Jaime Sommers' corpse for other uses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Idiot. She didn't have a Bionic eye. She had Bionic Hearing. It was Steve Austin that had the Bionic Eye.

      Oh, and you're sick!

      • Idiot. She didn't have a Bionic eye.

        She actually ended up with upgraded night vision. And parent is wrong for not wanting a corpse, but wrong because Jaime Sommers is not dead. In fact, if he wants to mess with the bionic women (gen 1) he will have to deal with the six million dollar man [] as they got married in the end.

        • The failed do over for the show had a cutie too. Wasn't there some other bionic women (maybe gen 2-3?) that was a lot faster then Jamie? Some TV movie. I remember Jamie running and getting beat bad by the new girl.

          OK I am old and liked the old and new show. Not so much the 6 million dollar man though.

          And the new Starbuck (I forget her name (Katie Sackoff?)) was in the new Bionic woman show as well.

          • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
            The new girl was Sandra Bullock in a pre-Speed role. Still not as hot as the original model, though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Culture20 ( 968837 )

        Fortunately, I was already digging up Jaime Sommers' corpse for other uses.

        Oh, and you're sick!

        He's a forensics expert. What's so sick about.. oh, now I get what you thought he meant. Who would want to use a corpse for the carpool lane? You're sick!

    • Son: Mum, is Lindsay Wagner really bionic?
      Mother: No, of course not. Why?
      Son: Because Dad said he could screw the ass of her any-day...

    • Fortunately, I was already digging up Jaime Sommers' corpse for other uses."

      Why? She's not dead []...not the character, nor the person.

      Remember? She didn't really die...she was frozen till they could cure her, and when she came back, she didn't remember loving Steve, and went off on her own adventures in her Bionic Woman show.

  • we need a brain interface for said eye which we already have. We call it a CCD camera.

    • You're only part way there... You also need integration, which would turn the CCD camera + interface + power supply + packing into an "eye"
    • we need a brain interface

      I think that's the part that makes it "bionic" rather than synthetic.
    • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
      There already are a few people with implanted electrodes from previous experiments. They'd appreciate getting an upgrade and a new eye.
    • by Xtravar ( 725372 )

      And for most people, a brain for said interface.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      The retina does more than just act like a CCD sensor - there are special neurons dedicated to basic tasks like motion detection, edge detection, contrast detection. While there are 100 million rods/cones in each eye, there are only around 1.2 million nerve fibres. Simulating this compression/conversion process in the past required a supercomputer and today requires a GPU card. To package a CCD sensor/GPU chip and VRAM into an eyeball sized package is going to be a big challenge.

      Figuring out what a single la

      • It doesn't need to be precisely eye sized right now. Just use a high bandwidth short range communication (like blue tooth or some such) to communicate with the "eye". You could much more easily fit the optics and radios and nerve interfaces into an eye with all of the computation (and don't forget power) in something like a wallet sized object in your pocket.
  • Wrong Approach? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Comatose51 ( 687974 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:14AM (#28182761) Homepage

    $40 million USD over 4 years is tiny! Wouldn't it be better to structure it as some sort of X-prize or some sort of incentive system predicated on success? I know it's hard to convince people to pop in a bionic eye so some stranger can tweak it but coming up with some parameters that could be objectively measured without sticking it into someone's body might be doable. X-prize type challenges can trigger research efforts in multiples of the actual prize itself.

    X-prize or not, $40 million USD over 4 years is not going to go very far.

    • This is why we have patent systems..

      The government is really bad at valuing inventions.

      People seem to forget that a lot.

      • by TypoNAM ( 695420 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:26AM (#28182983)
        I figured it out!
        1. Create bionic eye
        2. patent bionic eye
        3. Stab peoples' eyes out at random!
        4. PROFIT!!!
      • This is why we have patent systems. The government is really bad at valuing inventions.

        That's so true it isn't even funny. The patent system exists because the government continually overvalues patentable processes, and simultaneously underestimates the cost of handing out sweeping exclusive privileges like candy.

    • X-prizes type systems are nice, but they are mostly a PR stunt. This isn't to belittle them, or deny effectiveness, but you need real money to do research, not the prospect of maybe winning a prize. You can't hire researchers and buy equipment with prize money that you haven't won yet. So there still needs to be *real* grant money, *real* research contracts, or *real* investors to accomplish anything.

      Furthermore, the prize money only defrays the cost of eventual success, it costs more money to win an X p

  • by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:14AM (#28182771)

    It's already possible to do really low quality artificial sight. []

    As I see it, the main hurdle is just getting a eye hooked up with a decent amount of bandwidth (there are issues with power supply, nonrejection, et cetera, but those seem less difficult). The human brain is really good at creating interpreters for new inputs.

  • For shame USA. Our 70's TV future predictions are not panning out. Looks like the first Bionic Man/Woman will be saying cheesy things like "G'day".
  • you would have left after taxes?

    Probably not worth the effort.

    • Oh yes, you're right, there's no way you could sell the device you just invented. It's absolutely impossible that this money is just padding for the billions such an invention would actually be worth. Researches have to fit all their budget into incentive money and never have private investors as well.
      • You probably won't, you probably will have to license it to the government run medical system at a fixed price.

        Assuming you get to keep the rights at all. You might get a lump sum and lose the right to the invention because the development was paid for by the government in part or in whole.

  • by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:25AM (#28182971)

    I'll see her standing by the monorail
    She'll look the same except for bionic eyes
    She lost the real ones in the robot wars
    I'll say I'm sorry, she'll say it's not your fault
    Or is it?
    She'll eye me suspiciously
    Hearing the whir of the servos inside
    And she'll scream and try to run
    But there's nowhere she can hide
    When a crazy cyborg wants to make you his robot bride

    Well it's gonna be the future soon
    And I won't always be this way
    When the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away
    It's gonna be the future soon
    I've never seen it quite so clear
    And when my heart is breaking I can close my eyes and it's already here

  • My understanding has always been that doing things like eye transplants are currently impossible, because the eye directly integrates with the brain -- the retina blends into the optic nerve which blends into the brain. As Neal Stephenson said in Snow Crash (paraphrased horribly), if you look into someone's eyes, you're actually looking into their brain. Our current level of understanding and experience with neurobiology precludes brain transplants, which in turn precludes eye transplants.

    Until we have t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SEWilco ( 27983 )
      The fact that someone was able to decode a cat's optic nerve [] shows that the signaling on the nerve is somewhat understood. So maybe we need a suitable encoder in order to feed video to an optic nerve. There might be other problems, such as whether an optic nerve remains functional after the eye fails.
      • It turns out that you don't even need to do all of the work. The current versions can give a low resolution image, but don't even try to encode the signal in the same way a real eye would. The recipient's brain adapts to process the new input and build a mental image from it, just as it did when the original eyes started receiving input shortly after birth. Remember that the original eye wasn't designed; it evolved by mutating from something simpler to something that gave more precise input, and the brai
        • by SEWilco ( 27983 )
          Just because you can tell whether a door is open by the smell doesn't mean it isn't useful to be able to see how wide the doorway is. If we can feed the brain a signal similar to what the eye produces, the brain probably has structures which can deal with the video signal better than if we send a random signal or connect the video signal to the olfactory receptors.
    • The current bionic implants targets very very circumstances, i.e. the nerves and retina must still be attached etc. The implant stimulates the retina and creates images that the user can see. (They can replicate this using animal experiment by stimulating the retina and observing the brain activity in certain regions. Some groups in the US have already done some human trial with limited success) The current resolution is very low and the whole setup is impractical. My opinion is that stem cell research is t
    • by jellie ( 949898 )

      I think the "bionic eye" they refer to is more about the interface between an artificial eye and the human visual system, rather than an eye transplant. Like you said, the retina is composed of neural cells, so removing the eye or optic nerve leads to blindness that is most likely irreversible (like in retinal detachment). As far as I'm aware, "eye" transplants are transplants of the cornea.

      Current artificial eyes pass signals to the retina or to the visual cortex, but they have very low resolutions. I've h

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Shatrat ( 855151 )

      Our current level of understanding and experience with neurobiology precludes brain transplants, which in turn precludes eye transplants.

      This is backwards. You're saying that because we don't have the tools to replace the engine, we can't replace the spark plugs.

      Car analogy to the rescue.

    • Until we have that kind of knowledge, I don't see how any kind of eye replacement, whether via transplant or some kind of bionic prosthesis, will be possible. Of course, IANANB (I Am Not A Neurobiologist).

      Umm... So are you saying because we don't have the knowledge we are going to fail because we don't have the knowledge?

      I think the whole point of the research was to learn how to do it so they wouldn't fail at it.

      The point of research us to learn about something we know nothing about.

  • I dunno... sure we can rebuild him, but then that leads to the Bionic Woman, and we all know that inevitably means we'll have Fembots trying to take over the world... with their faces flipping off, and those freaky eyeballs on circuit board faces... Shudder!
  • Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic Australian. Steve Irwin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster... crikier!
  • We need Bionic Six and Robocop references to balance things out. And we've gone this long without a Borg reference, or someone demanding not only vision from bionic eyes but lasers? This isn't the Slashdot I know...
  • If I could get an HD eye with 20/10 vision and the ability to switch to infrared-mode. I'm getting to the point where I have trouble reading small print up close and it's all down hill for my eyeballs. I also have annoying floaters in my left eye. I'd be up for hanging on to my right eye (20/15 and still clear) so we could just pop the left one out and install an HD eyeball in there. That way I'd still get DRM-free organic vision with one eye, would not have floaters (I'll pass on the floater EULA) and woul
    • by Bugs42 ( 788576 )

      That way I'd still get DRM-free organic vision with one eye, would not have floaters (I'll pass on the floater EULA) and would be able to see my co-workers in their underwear with my left one.

      Sir, I'm gonna need to ask for your geek card. No /.er should be working in any kind of business where that's a good thing.

  • ...will I be able to fit 2 GPUs on it?
  • According to the TV show it was suppose to be $6 Million for the entire man! No wonder it's taking so long.

  • Isn't that 34 Million Dollars over budget, or is that in Aussie Dollars?
  • This proposal has a bit of a backstory to it.

    Last year, the newly-elected Australian government held something called the "2020 summit". The idea was to bring together 1000 of Australia's "best and brightest" - think academics, businesspeople, a smattering of celebrities including Hugh Jackman and Cate Blanchett (for the arts subtrack) to discuss ideas for Australia;s future. After two days of discussion, they came up with a list of suggestions.

    Unfortunately, the government didn't like most of them. Some

  • Don't they know? In the 70's it only cost $6M to build a whole bionic man. It has already been done!!!

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