TECH
05/19/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

BrainPort Device Lets Blind Soldier 'See' With His Tongue (VIDEO)

*See video below.*

British soldier Lance-Corporal Craig Lundberg lost his eyesight in a rocket-launched grenade attack while serving in Iraq in 2007. He was told he would never 'see' again. But now he can--with his tongue.

L/Cpl Lundberg uses a device called BrainPort, a non-surgical visual aide that consists of a video camera, which rests on a pair of sunglasses, linked to an electrode 'lollipop' that rests on the wearer's tongue and delivers electrical pulses.

The AFP describes the innovative vision technology:

It converts images into electrical pulses which are sent to the tongue, where they cause a tingling sensation.

The different strength of the tingles can be interpreted so the user can mentally visualise their surroundings and navigate around objects.

The image is created by presenting white pixels from the camera as strong stimulation, black pixels as no stimulation, and grey levels as medium levels of stimulation, although interpreting the images takes intensive training.

Lundberg told the Telegraph that the 'electrode lollipop', is like 'licking a nine volt battery or like popping candy.'

Blind people can learn to use the device in 15 minutes or so, writes Mandy Kendrick of Scientific American, likening the process to that of riding bicycle.

Though he also uses a guide dog, L/Cpl Lundberg's BrainPort helps him see shapes and even read letters. 'I realize there's not much scope for a blind sniper,' Lundberg told TheTimes, 'but perhaps the enemy could be persuaded to wear bells so that I could trace where they are.'

The Times goes on to report that Lundberg is now working with the Royal British Legion and charity organizations to help war veterans seeking aid. He also has his own fund, called the Freddy Fund.

The BrainPort device is still a prototype and not yet available for sale.

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