Once upon a time, there were some special Australian sheep with amazing vision. The small group had bionic, artificial eyeballs surgically inserted behind their retinas for three months last year. These sheep were part of a medical trial aimed at restoring sight to people who have lost it due to certain types of blindness. As a result, an application to initiate human patient testing has been submitted.

The initiative is being carried out by a group of researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales. The Phoenix 99 works by stimulating a user’s retina and is connected to a small camera attached to a pair of spectacles through a wireless connection. The retina is a layer of light-sensitive cells in the back of the eye that converts light into electrical signals.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.2 billion people around the world suffer from vision impairment, which can range from mild to severe blindness. The WHO says that the cost of missed productivity to the global economy is more than $25 billion (£19 billion) per year. Although the use of bionic eye systems to treat blindness is still in its early stages, one analysis projects that the industry would be worth $426 million by 2028 because of rapid technological improvements.