geordi-la-forgeThis might be obvious by this point, but our world is looking more like the Star Trek universe every day.

Researchers at Australia’s Monash University are working on a brain implant that could restore vision to those with conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration.

The device, expected to begin trials next year, works via a combination of a wireless camera and a brain implant that stimulates the visual cortex, allowing users to see basic shapes.

As project director Arthur Lowery told The Guardian, the system is all about allowing the visually impaired to more easily navigate their environments.

“It means people can go into a meeting and know who is there and how many of them there are. People can venture outside because they can see trees,” he said.

monash-blind

Bionic eyes, more formally known as “visual prostheses,” have been in development for over 20 years. While lots of people are researching the concept, the Monash bionic eye is interesting because it completely bypasses the optic system. Translation: You don’t even need eyeballs to use it.

But the Monash University researchers are not alone. Back in February, California-based Second Sight got FDA approval for its aptly named Argus II system, which promises to restore vision to those afflicted with advanced retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that slowly kills the eye’s photoreceptors.