Life-changing bionics start with Dalek voices and flashes of light

Media releases, Other

The first 30 years of bionics in Melbourne; transforming lives, creating jobs

  • A Dalek talking inside your head proves the worth of the bionic ear
  • And a little flash at first, then cloud-like images are just the start of the potential of the bionic eye.

Two people whose lives have been changed by the work of Melbourne’s Bionics Institute are available for interview ahead of the Bionics Institute lecture on 17 June. The lecture marks the beginning of celebrations of 30 years of the Bionics Institute and of the development of the Institute’s 30/30 vision.

  • First it was hearing

When JOAV NIRAN received a cochlear implant ten years ago, the initial sounds at ‘switch on’ were “like a Dalek talking inside your head”. But the human brain learns remarkably quickly, and once he’d adapted, Joav’s hearing allowed a reconnection with family, friends and with people he meets while travelling. He’s rediscovered his passion for music, retains an uncanny ability to identify accents, and he continues to learn new languages. Australia’s cochlear implant has been a proven success, with over 200,000 recipients and 70% share of the global market. And every one is made in Australia by Cochlear in Sydney.

  • Now: sight

DIANNE ASHWORTH became closely involved with the Bionics Institute through Bionic Vision Australia’s bionic eye project two years ago, and describes that very first glimpse of vision after 20 years of complete darkness as “a little flash at first, then different shapes, dark black lines and white lines, splotches of black and white, and cloud-like images”. Di has been an enthusiastic participant as the technology has been improved, including mobile trials, where she has successfully navigated obstacles with a headset-mounted camera and computer backpack. It’s still a proof of concept, but the bionic eye has already progressed to trials of advanced technology that could provide recipients with real independence.

  • Tomorrow: devices for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and other disorders.

The Bionics Institute is developing next-generation ‘deep brain stimulation’ Neurobionic technology that will help sufferers of Parkinson’s disease control tremors and maintain their balance and devices that will detect a coming epileptic seizure and suppress it. Also speaking at the lecture: SIMON McKEON – CSIRO Chairman, former Australian of the year, and Chair of the McKeon Review of health and medical research. Simon will explain how these technologies – one proven, and the others beginning their journey – illustrate the human and commercial benefits of investment in medical research and in particular medical devices.

Read more about the lecture at:

Media contacts:

Niall Byrne, Science in Public, 0417131977 or

Errol Hunt, Science in Public, 0423 139 210 or

Di in lab (Bionics Institute)

Di in lab (Bionics Institute)

Joav in the lab (Bionics Institute)

Joav in the lab (Bionics Institute)