Their Bionic Eyes are now Obsolete and Unsupported

In this article, we are going to discuss Bionic Eyes.

What are bionic eyes and how do these work?
A camera linked to a pair of spectacles delivers high-frequency radio signals to a microchip implanted in the retina in the bionic vision system. These signals are converted into electrical impulses by electrodes on the implanted chip, which stimulate cells in the retina that link to the optic nerve called In this article, we are going to discuss Bionic Eyes.

BARBARA CAMPBELL was walking through a New York City subway station during peak hour when everything changed. Campbell had been wearing a high-tech implant in her left eye for four years, which provided her a rudimentary kind of bionic vision and helped her compensate for a genetic illness that had rendered her fully blind in her 30s. Campbell told IEEE Spectrum, “I recall exactly where I was: I was switching from the 6 train to the F train.” “I was ready to descend the stairwell when I heard a small ‘beep, beep, beep’ sound.”

It wasn’t her phone’s battery that had died. Her retinal implant system, the Argus II, was shutting down.

Terry Byland is the only person in the world who has Bionic eyes. In 2004, he received the first-generation Argus I implant from Second Sight Medical Products in his right eye, followed by the Argus II implant in his left eye 11 years later. He assisted in the testing of the device, gave an emotional interview to the press about his experiences, and even met Stevie Wonder at a convention. He recalls, “I moved from being just a person who was doing the testing to being a spokeswoman.”

Another Second Sight sufferer, Ross Doerr, puts it bluntly: “It’s wonderful technology and a bad company.” In 2019, he had an implant in one eye and recalls seeing the twinkling lights of Christmas trees throughout the holiday season. In early 2020, he was ecstatic to find that he was qualified for software upgrades that could help him improve his eyesight even further. Nonetheless, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, he heard troubling stories about the corporation and contacted his vision-rehab therapist at Second Sight. “‘Well, funny you should call,’ she remarked. “We’d all just been laid off,” he recalls. “‘By the way, you’re not getting your improvements,’ she remarked.”

These three patients, along with more than 350 other blind people worldwide who have Second Sight implants in their eyes called Bionic Eyes, are now living in a world where the technology that has changed their lives has become obsolete. They could lose their artificial vision forever if there is a technological hitch or a broken wire. To add insult to injury, consider the following: A malfunctioning Argus system in the eye could create medical difficulties or interfere with treatments like MRI scans, and removing it could be unpleasant and costly.

Neural implants, or devices that interact with the human nervous system on the periphery or in the brain, are a fast emerging category of medicine known as electroceuticals. Some technologies, such as deep-brain stimulators that help people with Parkinson’s disease minimise tremors, are well-established. Recent developments in neuroscience and digital technology have spawned a gold rush in brain technology, with Elon Musk’s buzzy brain-implant business, Neuralink, epitomising the outsized investments. Some firms claim to be able to treat depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and restore mobility, or even offer superhuman intellect.

Not all these companies will succeed, and Los Angeles–based Second Sight provides a cautionary tale for bold entrepreneurs interested in brain tech. What happens when cutting-edge implants fail, or simply fade away like yesterday’s flip phones and Betamax? Even worse, what if the companies behind them go bust.

After Second Sight stopped its retinal implant in 2019 and nearly went out of business in 2020, the company secured $57.5 million in a public offering in June 2021. The business stated that it would concentrate on its ongoing clinical development of Orion, a brain implant that also delivers artificial vision. However, its stock price plummeted to roughly $1.50, and the business announced a proposed merger with Nano Precision Medical, an early-stage biopharmaceutical company, soon before this article was published in February 2022. (NPM). None of the executives from Second Sight will be part of the new company’s leadership team, which will focus on developing NPM’s unique implant for drug delivery.

The current leadership of the company declined to be interviewed for this piece, but they did send an emailed comment prior to the merger announcement. “We are a renowned global leader in neuromodulation devices for blindness and are devoted to developing innovative solutions to treat the broadest group of sight-impaired patients,” according to the statement.

By interviewing half a dozen patients, a company co-founder, and eight doctors or researchers affiliated with Second Sight, Spectrum was able to piece together the company’s tale. Hundreds of patients were taken on a roller-coaster trip of technology advancements, regulatory achievements, medical and financial losses, and a near-total catastrophe, according to their account. As the company slips from view, the future of high-tech vision implants appears to be hazier than ever.

A flash of light signaled the start of Second Sight. In 1991, an electrical engineer turned medical student, Robert Greenberg, was in an operating room watching as a retinal surgeon placed a tiny wire into the eye of a blind patient who was awake and under local anesthetic. The man reported seeing a spot of light in his pitch-black field of vision when the wire touched his retina and provided a small jolt of electric current. After the surgeon placed a second wire, the man noticed two bright spots. “It seemed simple to me that if you can produce two spots, you can create a lot more spots and construct images,” Greenberg stated in a 2011 interview for a Spectrum piece. “All we needed to do was construct.”

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. Greenberg spent many years developing the technology while working at the Alfred Mann Foundation, a nonprofit that researches biomedical equipment, before launching Second Sight in 1998 with three co-founders. The first-generation Argus I retinal implant (with a 16-electrode array) and the subsequent Argus II retinal implant (with a 60-pixel array) were approved by European regulators in 2011 and the United States in 2013.

The Argus II system is made up of more than only the implant, which is inserted surgically in a 4 hour process. In addition, the user wears special glasses with a small camera that sends footage via a wire to a video processing unit (VPU), which is usually worn on the user’s belt.

The VPU converts the images to 60 black-and-white pixel patterns, which are then sent back to a transponder in the glasses, which wirelessly broadcasts them to an antenna on the outside of the eye. The signal is then sent to the 60-electrode array that is connected to the patient’s retina. Multiple times per second, the electrodes stimulate the eye in diverse patterns, producing light flashes that correspond to the low-resolution video feed.

What do you think?

Written by Emma Ava

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