United States Food & Drug Administration recently announced that it had approved an assistive device to help the blind see through their tongue. According to the device maker, its sensors capture environmental imagery and transform it into gentle electrical stimulators on the blind person’s tongue.
After the device converts images, it assists its users into understanding what the electrical signals may mean. The camera that captures the images is attached to a special pair of glasses that the blind need to wear in order to use the device.
The device is dubbed BrainPort V100 and its main purpose is to augment reality in the case of blind people. But its producer Wisconsin-based Wicab cautions that it won’t replace guide dogs, canes or human assistants.
Nevertheless, aside the camera the device also comes with a flat, “intra-oral” unit which the blind will have to press against their tongue. The unit along with the camera is battery-powered.
According to the company, the camera records a video and send video signals to the intra-oral unit. In the meantime, the software of the device converts video signals into electrical signals that are transmitted to the unit’s electrodes. Since electrodes are attached to the user’ tongue, signal reach their brain where they are reinterpreted to form pictures.
The FDA announced that nearly 70 percent of human subjects that used the device during trial period could successfully recognize objects. About 70 people tested the device, but they needed training for about one year.
A spokesperson for the FDA Center for Devices & Radiological Health said that the new device had the potential of helping millions of people worldwide. But the FDA urged the producer to improve the technology so that it can help the blind rather than just monetize it.
On the other hand several study participants that had tested the device complained that the intra-oral unit gave them a metallic, stinging or burning taste. But its maker said that participants reported no serious drawbacks of the device.
This recent device is one of a series of technologies designed to improve the life of blind people, or even restore sight. In February, a 68-year-old man was able to see his wife first time in more than a decade due to a bionic eye implant. The technology called ‘Second Sight Argus II’ involved implanting 60 electrodes in the man’s eyes which communicate with a camera attached to a pair of glasses and a computerized system meant to decode the signals and recreate images.
Image Source: Science Recorder