Through a recently published press release, the United States Food & Drug Administration has confirmed that they have cleared a new assistive device designed for the blind for marketing. The said device works by translating digital information stored in a video camera into absolutely gentle patterns of electrical simulations on the user’s tongue.
Once the conversion process is over, the device assists users to learn interpreting those visual images. The video camera remains attached to a pair of glasses; to use the device, the user will need to wear the glasses.
The device, which has been named BrainPort V100, is a sight-assistive non-surgical device designed for augmenting reality; it is not a replacement of other alternative technologies created for assisting blind individuals, for instance, guide dogs, canes, or seeing eyes.
The BrainPort V100 is a creation of Wicab, a company based in Wisconsin. It’s a battery-powered device that contains a flat, small, intra-oral unit boasting around 400 electrodes. Users will need to hold this unit against their tongue.
The device’s software will be converting the image taken by the video camera into electrical signals; these signals are then delivered to the intra-oral unit’s electrodes. This will allow the user’s brain to interpret the vibrations on his or her tongue and form pictures.
In its recent press release, the FDA has reported that studies have shown that 69% of people completing the one-year training for using this device could recognize objects successfully. A total of 74 people were used as subjects for testing this new device.
According to William Maisel, the chief scientist at the FDA Center for Devices & Radiological Health, devices like the BrainPort V100 possess the potential of helping millions of people. Maisel added that it’s extremely important that scientists work with the aim of improving device technology for making the lives of blind Americans more comfortable and independent.
Although the results of these initial studies are quite satisfactory, the FDA press release did talk about some subjects who reported that the intra-oral device is offering a metallic, stinging or burning taste. However, the organization has also said that the subjects didn’t experience any serious adverse effects caused by the new device.