A new device that allows blind people to process visual images with their tongues can help them identify location, shape and size of various objects.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed marketing of the BrainPort V100, a battery-powered device that includes a video camera mounted on a pair of glasses and a small, flat intra-oral device containing a series of electrodes that the user holds against their tongue.
Software converts the image captured by the video camera into electrical signals that are then sent to the intra-oral device and perceived as vibrations or tingling on the user’s tongue.
With training and experience, the user learns to interpret the signals to determine the location, position, size, and shape of objects, and to determine if objects are moving or stationary.
“Medical device innovations like this have the potential to help millions of people,” said William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Clinical data supporting the safety and effectiveness of the BrainPort V100 included several assessments, such as object recognition and word identification, as well as oral health exams to determine risks associated with holding the intra-oral device in the mouth.
Studies showed that 69 per cent of the 74 subjects who completed one year of training with the device were successful at the object recognition test.
Some patients reported burning, stinging or metallic taste associated with the intra-oral device. There were no serious device-related adverse events.
The device has been developed by Wicab, Inc, in Middleton, Wisconsin, and is expected to cost about USD 10,000 when it becomes commercially available.