Used to be if your eyesight went out, your eyesight went out. And maybe you'd end up looking like a pirate, eye patch and all.

But UCLA's bioengineering professor Wentai Liu has invented what is being hailed as “the first bionic eye for the blind:”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the device, called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System.

A whole team of researchers and academics developed the thing, but UCLA's Liu is responsible for its brain — a computer chip that “tricks” the brain into seeing, UCLA says.

The eye isn't for everyone. Rather, the school says, it applies to “adults who have lost their eyesight due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), age-related macular degeneration or other eye diseases that destroy the retina's light-sensitive photoreceptors.”

Trip out. According to UCLA:

The Argus II operates with a miniature video camera mounted on a pair of eyeglasses that sends information about images it detects to a microprocessor worn on the user's waistband. The microprocessor wirelessly transmits electronic signals to the computer chip, a fingernail-size grid made up of 60 circuits. These chips stimulate the retina's nerve cells with electronic impulses which head up the optic nerve to the brain's visual cortex. There, the brain assembles them into a composite image.

The resulting imagery is of lower resolution than what you see with healthy human eyes, but it's still a breakthrough for those who would otherwise see practically nothing.

Liu, by the way, has been working on this … since 1988. He says:

We're engineering hope. Some things you can't cure, but in almost every problem in the human body, engineering can intervene to subdue or mediate the process or even restore function.

Just wait till people with bionic eye get the virtual-reality computer glasses known as Google Glass. Computers will be interacting with computers.

We just blew your mind.

[@dennisjromero / / @LAWeeklyNews]

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