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Medford Man Receives Bionic Eye

MEDFORD (CBS) -- After 20 years of darkness, there is light.

It seems like science fiction, but a bionic eye implant is bringing a kind of sight to the blind.

It's not what you and I see, but for a small number of people, it's making all the difference.

"It's not actual vision. It's what they call artificial vision," says Anthony Andreotolla, one of the first people to ever receive a bionic eye.

Every day he puts on his gear, leaves his Medford home and rides the MBTA to his job in Downtown Crossing.

Anthony Andreotolla
Anthony Andreotolla wearing bionic eye (WBZ-TV)

Andreotolla has retinitis pigmentosa. He began to lose his vision in his teens. By his 30's he couldn't see a thing.

"Once everything is black, for many, many years, that was it," he said.

For 20 years he lived in that blackness until he became one of the first to receive a bionic eye.

How does it work?

A tiny camera in his glasses sends images to a wearable computer. The images are processed and sent wirelessly to an implant in his eye.

Bionic eye
Anthony Andreotolla wearing bionic eye (WBZ-TV)

"I don't see things the way other people do. I see everything in different flashes, lights, shapes," Andreotolla explained.

It's more of a cloudy, black and white vision.

"I can tell the difference between a car or a bus or a truck. I can't tell you what make the car is," he said.

That vision helps him navigate life more safely.

And after his journey, he arrives at his job as a substance abuse counselor at St. Anthony's Shrine.

"I have my hope back. Once I lost my sight I was resigned to be blind for the rest of my life. I'm not resigned to that anymore. I believe if I can live long enough, I'll be able to see a lot of beautiful things," Andreotolla said.

The developer of the bionic eye is Second Sight, and they're already working on the next generation with faster processing and sharper images. Andreotolla had to go to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for his surgery, but it will be available soon at at least one Boston hospital.

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