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Science and Technology

Bionic Eyes: New technology leaves patients in the dark

Bionic Eyes: Hundreds of people who underwent reconstruction were able to improve their vision in the face of uncertain future as the technology they now rely on is no longer viable.

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Second Sight stopped making its Argus II bionic eyes a few years ago to focus on brain replacement instead.

According to the IEEE Spectrum. Which has broken the issue, we now hope to meet with a biopharmaceutical firm that does not make implants.

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Second Sight was contacted by the BBC but had not yet responded.

Improving lives


Adam Mendelsohn, chief executive officer of Nano Precision Medical. With whom Second Sight plans to meet. Told the BBC he would consider issues raised by the IEEE once the merger was finalized. Scheduled for mid-2022.

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“I intend to make this one of our priorities. If I also take my leadership position in a joint venture,” said Mr Mendelsohn.

According to the Bionic Eyes website. Argus II offers life-changing benefits for the visually impaired, including “enjoyment of walking and independence”.

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“Our goal is to develop neuro-stimulation technology. To improve the lives of blind people, while supporting our current users,” he said.
But the IEEE Spectrum reports that Second Sight has actually discontinued. Its retinal implant – which effectively replaces photoreceptors in the eyes to create a visual acuity – in 2019.

It says the company almost went out of business by 2020. And is now focused on a brain machine – Orion – which also provides a performance concept, while providing limited support to 350 or more implants.

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Expensive technology


Surgery to install the device usually takes a few hours. And is followed by post-op training to help users interpret the signals from their devices.

The website also promises updates. “As technology improves, so will your Argus II installation – better – without the need for further surgery. Enjoy the flexibility and power of future computer hardware and software development.”

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The program consists of plugins, special mirrors with a built-in camera. And a video processing unit (VPU) attached to the waist of the person who installed it.

Bionic Eyes
Bionic Eyes

The glass camera sends the video to the VPU. Which converts images into black and white pixel patterns and then sends them to the respondent in the glasses, which they lightly illuminate the wireless lens.

A series of electrodes implanted behind the retina detect regenerative patterns. In the Bionic Eyes and stimulate. The eye by creating light that matches the video feed and is sent. Into the optic nerve to create a kind of visual acuity.

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It is a smart and innovative technology. Which took decades to create and was not cheap – estimated at about $ 150,000 (£ 110,000) without surgery and post-surgery training.

In the dark


But patients affected by the IEEE Spectrum have expressed concern.

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Another, Ross Doerr, said Second Sight failed to communicate with its patients after the financial crisis of 2020.

“We who have this implant are in the dark both figuratively and literally,” he said.

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Another user, Jeroen Perk, had problems when his VPU system crashed in November 2020. “I had no vision, no Argus, and no support from Second Sight,” he told the publication.

He thought the machine was operated on. But decided to enlist the help of other patients and doctors familiar with the program. And fortunately received a backup.

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Bionic Eyes told the magazine that during its financial crisis. It had to reduce staff and “could not keep up with the previous level of Argus II. User support and communication”.

Since Bionic Eyes and doctors, it says it will do its utmost to “provide visible support”. But no repairs or possible replacement of implants.

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Technological vulnerability


Elizabeth M Renieris, professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame, USA, described the development as a warning.

He told the BBC: “This is a good example of our growing risk as we face the increasingly sophisticated. Intelligent and connected technologies in the health and biomedical sectors (Bionic Eyes).

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“This is not the same as off-the-shelf products or services that we can own or control. Instead we rely on software development, patented methods and components. And commercial drivers and the success or failure of a for-profit business.”

The ethical considerations regarding such technologies should in the future include “independence, dignity, and accountability”, he added.

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