Gadget helps blind see with their tongue

Scientists have invented an electronic device which may help blind people to see using their tongues. The device works by taking pictures through a tiny camera & turns the information into electrical pulses that can be felt on the tongue of the blind people. They have shown through tests that the nerves send messages to the brain, which turns these tingles back into pictures. The BrainPort vision device looks like a pair of sunglasses which attached through cable to a plastic lollipop.

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The users of BrainPort device can make out shapes & even read signs with fewer than twenty hours of training only. The inventors behind this device say that learning to picture images felt on the tongue is similar to learning to ride a bike. BrainPort device collects visual data through a small digital video camera about 2.5cm in diameter that is placed in the middle of a pair of sunglasses worn by the user.

Then this information is transmitted to a hand-held control unit, which is about the size of a mobile phone. The hand-held control unit converts that digital signal into electrical pulses & sends this to the tongue via the lollipop that sits on the tongue. A grid of 600 electrodes on the lollipop, those pulsate according to the light in that area of the picture.

The control unit of the device allows user to zoom in & out, control setting of light & electric shock intensity. “It enables blind people to gain perception of their surroundings, displayed on their tongue. They cannot necessarily read a book but they can read a sign,” said Robert Beckman, president of the team of developing BrainPort device. He hoped that the device would be used to improve people's mobility & safety.

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