Eyes in Your Tongue

I haven’t had a good upbeat ain’t-tech-wonderful post in a little while, but the recent approval of Wicab’s BrainPort V100 device for use in the EU gives me a chance to show this bit of coolness:

Here’s how it works:

The BrainPort V100 includes a video camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses. The camera works in a variety of lighting conditions and has an adjustable field of view (zoom). The tongue array contains 400 electrodes and is connected to the glasses via a flexible cable. White pixels from the camera are felt on the tongue as strong stimulation, black pixels as no stimulation, and gray levels as medium levels of stimulation. Users report the sensation as pictures that are painted on the tongue with tiny bubbles. A small hand-held unit provides user controls and houses a rechargeable battery. The system will run for approximately 3 hours on a single charge.

Think of it as visual braille read by your tongue. It does not provide “sight,” but with training (10 to 20 hours) people can learn to process the impressions on the tongue into image-like data understood by brain. 

It is not yet available for use in the US and is still in development.

And just to inject a political note in this piece: Wicab, which has been trying to bring this tech to market for years, is one of those wicked medical device companies being punished with a new tax to pay for the Obamacare boondoggle. Of course, this will raise the cost of all medical devices, but it will also steal (yes, steal) important funds which companies (especially small ones) use to bring incredible new devices like this to market after massive amounts of R&D, years of work, and millions of dollars spent clearing FDA hurdles.