New BrainPort Device from Wicab Allows the Visually Impaired to Use Taste Buds to See
August 20, 2009
A device called BrainPort, created by Wicab, Inc., may allow the blind to regain part of their vision by routing the sensory information through another receptor. By using a digital camera and specialized “lollipop”, the blind can actually see with their tongues.
The BrainPort consists of three parts: special sunglasses fitted with a digital camera, a small handheld device that contains a CPU that converts the images collected from the sunglasses into electrical impulses and an electrode “lollipop” that receives those electrical impulses. The neuroscientists at Wicab are using sensors on the tongue that would usually be utilized to detect different tastes and repurposing them to process the visual data coming from the BrainPort.
This device only allows users to “see” in black and white, as it works by dividing the visual field into a huge field of pixels. White pixels cause a strong electric pulse, while black pixels create no pulse whatsoever. There are still questions about how this process works – whether the brain views these impulses as visual or as sensory.
While this may not be the most practical solution, it does not require any surgeries or implants to use. The BrainPort has not approved by the FDA at this time and is still under investigation.
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