She has a device in her mouth, touching her tongue, and there are wires running from that device to the video camera. And when he suddenly rolls it in her direction, she puts out a hand to stop it. The blind woman saw the ball. Through her tongue. Well, not exactly through her tongue, but the device in her mouth sent visual input through her tongue in much the same way that seeing individuals receive visual input through the eyes.

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White pixels have a strong pulse while black pixels give no signal. The control unit converts the image into a low resolution black, white and gray picture, which is then recreated as a square grid of electrodes — around the size of a postage stamp — on the lollipop. Each of the electrodes pulses according to how much light is in that area of the picture. It converts pictures into electrical pulses and it is placed on the tongue.

Electrode array that is placed on the tongue 2. Accelerometer: The other side of the electrode array is an accelerometer. Named BrainPort, and developed by Wicab Inc. Sensitive nerve fibers on the tongue respond to electrodes to enable a rapid transfer of electrical information. Sunglasses and Camera: The device is made up of a video camera hidden in a pair of sunglasses, which the user wears.

Signals from the camera are sent along a cable to a handheld control unit, about the size of a cell phone, and then to a lollipop-shaped stick, which is placed on the tongue. The inventors claim that blind people using the device, that looks like sunglasses attached by cable to a plastic lollipop, blind people can make out shapes and read signs with less than 20 hours training.

The BrainPort device collects visual data through a small digital video camera about 1. CPU to tongue: CPU converts the images into a pattern of electronic impulses and sends them to the electrode array placed atop the tongue. The following video explains the working of the BrainPort device. About two million optic nerves are required to transmit visual signals from the retina. Visual data are collected through a small digital video camera. Bypassing the eyes, the data are transmitted to a handheld base unit, which is a little larger than a cell phone.

From the CPU, the signals are sent to the tongue via an electrode array, about nine square centimeters in size, that is placed atop the tongue. Densely packed nerves at the tongue surface receive the incoming electrical signals, which feel a little like Pop Rocks or champagne bubbles to the user. These signals from tactile or touch receptors cells are sent to the somatosensory cortex in response to stimulation in the form of pattern impulses.

In any case, within 15 minutes of using the device, blind people can begin interpreting spatial information via the BrainPort. Why does the device placed on the tongue? Other parts of the body, such as the back, were not sufficiently sensitive. The fingertips were sensitive enough, but people wanted full use of their hands to grip a cane or to grab objects.

Placing the device on the tongue inside the mouth frees the hands to interact with the environment, Plus, the device can be hidden in the mouth. The key to the device may be its utilization of the tongue, which seems to be an ideal organ for sensing electrical current. Saliva there functions as a good conductor. The surfaces of fingers, for example, are covered with a layer of dead cells called stratum corneum.

The tongue was the ideal place to provide information through tactile stimulation. There is a high level of nerve endings in the tongue, similar to a finger. And the tongue is constantly moist, so there is constant electric conductivity.

Finger would require 10 times more electric stimulation than the tongue does to produce the same results in the visual cortex. Tests carried: This device has been tested on several blind people; one among them is Erik Weihenmayer. A genetic eye condition known as retinoschisis caused him to be visually impaired at birth and completely blind by age In retinoschisis, tiny cysts form within the eyes delicate retinal tissue, eventually causing its layers to split apart.

Neither medication nor surgery can restore sight. But with the help and practicing this device he was at least able to identify the obstacles, objects around him and can also read the signs. And by use of this device he has climbed mountains around the world — the highest peaks, in fact, on every continent. This is a simple form of sensory substitution, in which the tongue is used to present information from an artificial balance sensor. Another application is providing directional or navigational information for people who operate under central command and control scenarios, such as military and civilian rescue personnel.

Providing information via the tongue allows them to fully use their vision and hearing to respond to unforeseen threats or hazards. We have shown in the laboratory that it is possible to navigate a virtual maze like a simple video game using only information received on the tongue i.

A third, more ambitious application would be providing very crude visual information through the tongue for persons who are completely blind. Our colleague Eliana Sampaio at the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France has used our tongue stimulator with a small video camera and demonstrated an equivalent visual acuity of about to, which is a very poor vision, but possibly useful for certain limited activities with enough practice.

Wicab, Inc continues to improve this technology with the aim of commercializing it. A fourth application would be providing tactile feedback to the human operators of robots used for various tasks.

Advantages of the BrainPort Vision Device BrainPort device does not replace the sense of sight, it adds to other sensory experiences to give users information about the size, shape, and location of objects. Users can operate it independently with a hand-held controller. It uses a rechargeable battery like in normal cell phones.

The BrainPort device requires training the brain incrementally using daily practice sessions. Occasionally it will produce weak metallic taste sensations, a minor side effect. We have never observed any kind of tissue irritation with the gold-plated electrodes. Conclusion: Science has always provided mankind with answers and solutions, and science will continue to do so, while simultaneously supplying us with improvements upon previous technologies or new technologies altogether.

Today, humanity owes the majority of our commodities, from prosthetic limbs to iPods, to years of scientific research and collaboration between different scientific disciplines.

Unfortunately, however much science may have contributed to improving our lives, there is still plenty of headway to be made. We are always looking for areas in which our interdisciplinary strengths can be leveraged to revolutionize areas of science, engineering, and technology, and to improve the quality of life for millions of people.

The brain appears to be flexible when it comes to interpreting sensory input. You can train it to read input from, say, the tactile channel, as visual or balance information, and to act on it accordingly. Thus we hope that blind people can also see this colorful world by using this brainport device.

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BrainPort Vision Device

The BrainPort Vision Pro is being used by individuals with no usable vision, both congenitally blind and with acquired blindness. Good candidates for using the BrainPort Vision Pro are people that have completed conventional blind rehabilitation training and are comfortable using conventional assistive tools. A non-surgical solution, BrainPort Vision Pro does not affect the eyes. This is important in the event future research offers better alternatives for people who are totally blind.


How BrainPort Works

White pixels yield strong electrical signals that some say feel like champagne bubbles, while black pixels give no signal. This technology uses the tongue because it is more sensitive and a better electrical conductor than other areas of the body, such as the hands or the back. The device can also be used to address problems of balance. Sensors transmit information about the position of your head, the amount of pressure on your feet and other bodily positions and then relay the data to your tongue, where you learn to interpret your position in space and make the adjustments you need to stand straight, or to walk without fear of falling. Developed by Wicab Inc.



Photo courtesy Wicab, Inc. Test results for the BrainPort vision device are no less encouraging, although Wicab has not yet performed formal clinical trials with the setup. According to the University of Washington Department of Ophthalmology, million people in the United States alone suffer from visual impairment. This might be age-related, including cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, from diseases like trachoma, diabetes or HIV , or the result of eye trauma from an accident. BrainPort could provide vision-impaired people with limited forms of sight. To produce tactile vision, BrainPort uses a camera to capture visual data. The optical information -- light that would normally hit the retina -- that the camera picks up is in digital form, and it uses radio signals to send the ones and zeroes to the CPU for encoding.



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