Great expectations: Aligning visual prosthetic development with implantee needs

Lucas Nadolskis, Lily M. Turkstra, Ebenezer Larnyo, Michael Beyeler medRxiv

(Note: LN and LMT contributed equally to this work.)


Purpose: Visual prosthetics have emerged as a promising assistive technology for individuals with vision loss, yet research often overlooks the human aspects of this technology. While previous studies have concentrated on the perceptual experiences of implant recipients (implantees) or the attitudes of potential implantees towards near-future implants, a systematic account of how current implants are being used in everyday life is still lacking.
Methods: We interviewed six recipients of the most widely used visual implants (Argus II and Orion) and six leading researchers in the field. Through thematic and statistical analyses, we explored the daily usage of these implants by implantees and compared their responses to the expectations of researchers. We also sought implantees' input on desired features for future versions, aiming to inform the development of the next generation of implants.
Results: Although implants are designed to facilitate various daily activities, we found that implantees use them less frequently than researchers expected. This discrepancy primarily stems from issues with usability and reliability, with implantees finding alternative methods to accomplish tasks, reducing the need to rely on the implant. For future implants, implantees emphasized the desire for improved vision, smart integration, and increased independence.
Conclusions: Our study reveals a significant gap between researcher expectations and implantee experiences with visual prostheses, underscoring the importance of focusing future research on usability and real-world application.
Translational relevance: This work advocates for a better alignment between technology development and implantee needs to enhance clinical relevance and practical utility of visual prosthetics.

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