Wicab Inc. has developed the BrainPort V100, a device which can help blind people be more oriented by processing visual images with their tongues. On Thursday the device was received the approval of FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration). The company which developed the device is based in Wisconsin and the BrainPort V100 project was so full of potential that it was funded by Google and by the US Department of Defense.
BrainPort V100 functions on batteries. It includes a pair of glasses provided with a small video camera, a controller and a small mouthpiece which has 400 electrodes and looks like a lillipop. When the user holds the mouthpiece to the tongue de device turns the images gathered by the camera into electrical signals which feel like carbonated candy or champagne bubbles on the user’s tongue.
So what the invention does is transform visual data into electrical stimuli so that blind persons can interpret these signals and sense the shape and size of objects and whether they are moving or stationary.
The underlying principle of BrainPort V100 is the fact that the electrical stimuli have a different effect on people who are blind than on those who can see. In the case of blind persons the electrical stimuli are sensed at the level of the visual cortex.
The lolipop can turn the images into 400 different types of electrical shocks of low intensity. So this is basically a language which the blind must learn in order to understand the signals and figure out what lies in front of them. We can say that BrainPort V100 is like an equivalent of the sign language which is used by the deaf.
By offering blind people more independence their self-esteem could be increased and it can help those who lost their sight at a particular point in their life to manage their condition better.
William Maisel, who is chief scientist at the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (FDA) commented on this invention:
“Medical device innovations like this have the potential to help millions of people. It is important we continue advancing device technology to help blind Americans live better, more independent lives.”
The groundbreaking device comes at the price of $10.000. Hopefully as people buy the product the price will decrease and the BrainPort will be available for more people.
Image Source: Half Bakery