New Device Helps Blind People See With Their Tongues

The Food and Drug Administration has announced marketing approval of a new device that can help orient people who are blind by helping them process visual images with their tongues.
The BrainPort is a battery-powered device that includes a video camera mounted on a pair of glasses and a small, flat intra-oral device containing a series of electrodes that the user holds against their tongue. Software converts the image captured by the video camera in to electrical signals that are then sent to the intra-oral device and perceived as vibrations or tingling on the user’s tongue. With training and experience, the user learns to interpret the signals to determine the location, position, size, and shape of objects, and to determine if objects are moving or stationary.
Studies showed that 69 percent of the 74 subjects who completed one year of training with the device were successful at the object recognition test. Some patients reported burning, stinging or metallic taste associated with the intra-oral device. There were no serious device-related adverse events.
The device is intended to augment, rather than replace, other assistive technologies such as a white cane or dog guide.