BrainPort - See With Your Tongue By Year's End

The Wicab BrainPort is a device that takes information gathered by the sensors in a pair of glasses and sends them to a "lollipop" electrode array that sits on your tongue.

(BrainPort Light-gathering glasses and 'lollipop')

About two million optic nerves are required to transmit visual signals from the retina—the portion of the eye where light information is decoded or translated into nerve pulses—to the brain's primary visual cortex. With BrainPort, the device being developed by neuroscientists at Middleton, Wisc.–based Wicab, Inc., visual data are collected through a small digital video camera about 1.5 centimeters in diameter that sits in the center of a pair of sunglasses worn by the user.

Bypassing the eyes, the data are transmitted to a handheld base unit, which is a little larger than a cell phone. This unit houses such features as zoom control, light settings and shock intensity levels as well as a central processing unit (CPU), which converts the digital signal into electrical pulses—replacing the function of the retina.

SciFi movie fans find this technology truly tasty, ever since something like it was demonstrated by Doctor Emilio Lizardo (aka Lord Whorfin, aka John Lithgow) in the 1984 cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension.

(Dr. Lizardo prepares to see into the past)

The BrainPort device seems to work well in practice: patients quickly learn how to find doorways and elevator buttons and even read letters and numbers. At table, users can easily pick out cups and forks; I suppose you'd take it out to eat.

The BrainPort should be approved for market by the end of 2009; it will cost about $10,000 per machine.

Via Scientific American; learn how the BrainPort can be used by Navy Seals. Thanks to Meditating Bear for suggesting this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/16/2009)

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