FDA Approves Device that Help Vision Impaired ‘See with Tongue’

The FDA has just approved a new device that can help the blind “see” with their tongue. The BrainPort V100 uses “light tasting” technology to help vision-impaired individuals better navigate through their surroundings.

BrainPort V100 is used in conjunction with an assistance dog or cane to maximize safety. The BrainPort uses a small plastic square “lollipop” that sits on top of the tongue, connected by wire to a small video camera attached to sunglasses that the user wears. The camera captures images, which are then transmitted to the lollipop and felt through vibrations on the tongue. The BrainPort V100 is a battery operated device.

This technology works because we do not see with our eyes, we see with our brains. Our eyes work as sensors to take in images, but it is our brain that processes them. Through the BrainPort V100, the images that would be captured by a seeing eye are instead converted into electrical impulses that are felt through the tongue, and then processed in the brain.

Users have reported being able to sense the size, shape, and position of objects through the BrainPort V100. Additionally, movement can be sensed, as well. 69% of the 74 users who went through a yearlong training program passed object recognition tests.

The FDA has determined that the BrainPort V100 is both safe and effective. The only reported side effects were a metallic taste in the mouth and minor burning sensation. The BrainPort V100 is a safe way to help the blind navigate their surroundings more comfortably and to be able to find and recognize objects. The FDA’s approval is exciting, because this technology may now become more widely available and help more people “see” with their tongues.

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