Researchers in Australia plan to begin testing a bionic eye prototype on human patients in 2013. The new device is being developed by Bionic Vision Australia, and is aimed at helping patients with genetic eye conditions see large objects like buildings and cars. It includes an implanted chip that uses 98 separate electrodes to stimulate the patient's retina so that they can "perceive vision."

"I think to create a bionic eye is equivalent to trying to create a television as compared to a radio."

The set-up involves a camera built-in to a pair of glasses, which captures images and then transfers them to an external device (attached by a wire) for processing. The data is then sent to the implant, which stimulates the retina, before the information finally reaches the vision processing centers in the brain. Called the "wide-view device," the implant isn't the only prototype the team is working on — a more accurate "high-acuity device," which could help patients recognize faces and even read large print, is expected to go into testing in 2014.