In the Dark

Eliza Strickland and Mark Harris, writing at IEEE Spectrum, outline a trend I never would have thought possible. Hundreds of recipients of retinal implants will be in the dark” after the company makes them goes out of business—an outcome expected imminently after layoffs at Second Sight, which no longer makes the devices. The story is horrifying.

These three patients, and more than 350 other blind people around the world with Second Sight’s implants in their eyes, find themselves in a world in which the technology that transformed their lives is just another obsolete gadget. One technical hiccup, one broken wire, and they lose their artificial vision, possibly forever. To add injury to insult: A defunct Argus system in the eye could cause medical complications or interfere with procedures such as MRI scans, and it could be painful or expensive to remove.

For me, this is the story of the week. I am blind in my right eye and I always look at technological developments surrounding bionic” eyes. The Six Million Dollar Man notwithstanding, medical technology has not advanced enough to reconnect the optic nerve so I quickly move on when the story is about fixing” retinal blindness. Still, the ramifications of this is uncharted. Smart patients will start demanding rights to service, repair, and upgrade these kinds of implants and the technology has to become available when company’s go belly-up.

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