An FDA(the Food and Drug Administration) approved device BrainPort V100 which allows greater vision for blind by using the tongue, is soon to hit shelves near you allowing blind people to explore and see more of the world around them. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and ‘you eat with your eyes first’ are terms soon to become more familiar for blind people. The BrainPort V100 device, developed by Wisconsin-based Wicab, emplys a camera to grab visual data, which is then translated into electrical stimuli. This is then fed to the blind person via a 400-electrode sensor array which is placed on their tongue.
The concept is to create a ‘feel-based’ image which allows blind people to visualize objects around them. ‘We don’t want to create false hopes, they need to learn the technology and practice with it. It’s more akin to learning a new language than it is to ordinary perception.’
Robert Beckman, chief executive officer of Wicab Inc, said: ‘People are able to learn to interpret these patterns of bubbles or stimulation on their tongue to know what object is in front of them.
It’s a difficult idea to grasp (or visual!) even using it takes some practice and time.
However, 69 per cent of subjects who tested the device in trials said it enabled them to gain greater visual awareness about the physical world around them. Although the device offers hope to many blind people, it’s still a novelty and expected to cost around $10,000 (£6,300) when it becomes commercially available.