The BrainPort vision device can create a sign language equivalent for the blind, by using the person’s tongue.
The new device has just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and it will soon be available on the market, hopefully. Its full name is the BrainPort V100 and it has three parts: a camera that has been attached to a pair of dark sunglasses, that takes photographs of what is in front of the person, a hand controller that receives the image data from the camera and then sends them on the stimulation device in the form of low intensity electrical stimuli.
The stimulation device is a square lollipop-like gizmo that can produce up to 400 electrical stimulation points, aimed at the person’s tongue. And here comes the interesting feature. On a normally developed person, this would feel like tactile stimuli on the tongue, but for blind people, it seems that the visual cortex can actually be stimulated.
“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,” said the representative of the production company, Robert Beckman. “We don’t want to create false hopes,” he added, in order to make it clear that the device cannot render the blind their sight back.
However, what it can do is offer them some independence, because they can learn how certain object feel on their tongue and become aware of what is present in front of them.
The visually impaired can practice with the BrainPort device in specialized areas, so that they can learn how it works and how to use it. One type of practice rink is an oval track which they can learn to walk in, without assistance. The aim is that they manage to walk within the designated lines.
The device can help blind people tall the difference between certain objects that they have in front of them, such as a banana and a ball. Furthermore, it could even enable them to read some small words, such as EXIT, that bares great importance in their independence.
By practicing with the device, the blind can identify certain patterns in their usual routes, for instance, which they can interpret much better than what they are able to tell by using a walking stick. This would be a immense step forward for these people and with time, there are bound to be significant improvements added to the groundbreaking device.
Wicab Inc. is the company that has produces this incredible device. It is based in Wisconsin, but it is bound to expand as soon as the BrainPort hits the market. Also, Google and the U.S. Department of Defense have funded the development of this project, precisely because of its immense potential.
The initial price of the BrainPort V100 will be of $10,000, which is rather high. This start price is going to decrease as the device becomes more used among the legally blind, so as to be become available to more and more people.
It is truly incredible what technology is able to create nowadays. The BrainPort device however is particularly impressive because it has the potential of changing the lives of so many people for the better.
Image Source: frontiersin.org