The development of a cortically based vision prosthesis has been hampered by a lack of basic experiments on phosphene psychophysics. This basic research has been hampered by the lack of a means to safely stimulate large numbers of cortical neurons. Recently, a number of laboratories have developed arrays of silicon microelectrodes that could enable such basic studies on phosphene psychophysics. This paper describes one such array, the Utah electrode array, and summarizes neurosurgical, physiological and histological experiments that suggest that such an array could be implanted safely in visual cortex. We also summarize a series of chronic behavioral experiments that show that modest levels of electrical currents passed into cortex via this array can evoke sensory percepts. Pending the successful outcome of biocompatibility studies using such arrays, high count arrays of penetrating microelectrodes similar to this design could provide a useful tool for studies of the psychophysics of phosphene perception in human volunteers. Such studies could provide a proof-of-concept for cortically based artificial vision.