Brainport Tongue Vision In Use By Navy SEALs

Soldiers have a lot of information to process; Army Rangers could use 360-degree vision, and Navy SEALs could use sonar vision under water. The Brainport can give it to them - through their tongues.

(Brainport tongue vision system test by Dr. Anil Raj)

The Brainport is a set of 144 microelectrodes that transmit information to the brain via the nerve fibers in the tongue. A narrow strip of red plastic connects a sonar device (or other source of live data) to the tongue of the user.

Veteran Navy Diver Michael Zinszer used it to sense compass direction and depth while in a swimming pool. He said it felt like having Pop Rocks candies on his tongue.

"You are feeling the outline of this image," he said. "I was in the pool, they were directing me to a very small object and I was able to locate everything very easily."

The device was pioneered more than thirty years ago by a University of Wisconsin neuroscientist, Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita.

Right about now you might be thinking that the idea of being able to see with your tongue is too bizarre even for the world of science fiction. If so, you are wrong.

In the 1984 cult classic film The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension, Italian physicist Dr. Emilio Lizardo uses a tongue interface. In the film (take a deep breath here), Dr. Lizardo, in a failed attempt to create an oscillation overthruster, has his mind taken over by Lord John Whorfin, leader of the Red Lectroids, from another dimension. While imprisoned in an insane asylum, Whorfin/Lizardo constructs a device that lets him see into the past, clamping it carefully on to his tongue.

(Dr. Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow) prepares his device)

I'm not going to claim this one as an sf prediction, because the purpose of the tongue clamp is not very well specified. However, this item leaves me up in the air on that whole "which is stranger - truth or fiction?" question.

Read more at Scientists Probe the Use of the Tongue.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/24/2006)

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