Australian researchers have been working for years to develop the bionic eye, in which electrodes are inserted into the retina of vision-impaired patients.

Dianne Ashworth, 54, was the first patient fitted with the device in surgery at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in May.

It was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute in East Melbourne after her eye had recovered fully from surgery, as researchers held their collective breath in the next room while watching via video link.

Ms Ashworth said: "All of a sudden I could see a little flash ... it was amazing.

"Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye."