'The Six Million Dollar Man' could soon be a reality, with human bionics experts from around Australia coming together to form a national body aimed at seeing the technology take its next leap forward.
In total, 14 leading human bionics professionals attended their first national planning meeting at Bond University this week to discuss how the bionics industry can empower medically challenged children and adults to achieve their full potential through technological innovations to restore sight, hearing, communication and movement.
The Human-Bionics Interface Frontiers was founded by Associate Professor Dimity Dornan of leading paediatric organisation 'Hear and Say', with the overall goal of bringing together individuals and organisations from across Australia who are working and researching in the field of human bionics.
Key leaders in the bionics industry, such as Julie Ann Quinn of Bionic Vision Australia, and Professor Stephen Williams representing the Queensland Brain Institute, attended the Human-Bionics Interface Frontiers meeting to discuss the advancement of a national agenda for the future of the Australian Bionics Industry.
Professor Helen Chenery, Executive Dean of Health Sciences and Medicine at Bond University, said the meeting was vital for enabling better health care for all Australians.
"This is the second collaborative meeting, and first major planning meeting, of the Human-Bionics Interface Frontiers, where partners and collaborators can come together to create a shared vision for the future of human bionics," Professor Chenery said.
"Each of the organisations present has worked very hard to develop an assistive device that restores or replaces the function of a diseased body part or limb, for example, cochlear implants for children and adults with hearing loss, deep brain stimulation devices to assist people with Parkinson's Disease, prosthetics for people with paralysis and/or neurological disease, bionic hearts or bionic eyes.
"It's imperative to think broadly about how the technology fits within the patient's health/life journey - the device by itself is one element, but it's equally important to understand how the apparatus fits into the patient's daily life, and the impact this can have upon them and their families.
"Today's meeting was a hugely rewarding process, led by Associate Professor Dornan through 'Hear and Say', and Bond University is very pleased to have played host to the second major meeting of the Human-Bionics Interface Frontiers."
Associate Professor Dimity Dornan spoke of how the success of devices such as the bionic ear can be harnessed to develop new bionic devices.
"The bionic ear was a major step forward in the field of human bionics, and has been a wonderfully successful device that has restored hearing to thousands of people across the globe," Associate Professor Dornan said.
"However, the bionic ear took 22 years to develop fully as it had to be built from the ground up - we had to figure out how to select appropriate patients, how to diagnose them, how to activate the bionic device, how to train the families, and most importantly, how to train the patient's brain to use the device, as well as how to keep fine-tuning the device to ensure it was being used to its optimal capacity.
"I foresee that we can apply the work that was done on the bionic ear to new bionic innovations, so the processes involved can be shortened to help real people with real problems much faster.
"It is my belief that eventually it will be possible to replace every part of the body with bionic technology, and the Human-Bionic Interface Frontiers is looking to coordinate the processes involved so we do so in a systematic way to develop the very best in treatment for diseases which, at present, may have no treatment at all.
"We are working to create a common language amongst key experts in the bionics industry to help change the face of disability and health services, both in Australia and across the world."