Using The Tongue To ‘see’


A Wisconsin company is the manufacturer of a device designed to help blind people process visual images through their tongues.

The Food and Drug Administration announced in a news release today that it is allowing marketing of the BrainPort V100, made by Wicab Inc. of Middleton, Wis.

The battery-powered device consists of a video camera mounted on a pair of glasses and a small, flat device the user holds against his or her tongue, the FDA explained in a news release. Software converts the images captured by the camera to electrical signals that are felt as vibrations or tinglings on the tongue. With training and experience, the user can interpret the signals to determine the location, position, size and shape of objects and whether they are stationary or moving.

Studies showed 69 percent of the 74 people who completed a year of training with the device succeeded in an object-recognition test. Some users reported a burning, stinging or metallic taste from the device on the tongue, but no serious problems arose.

The news release noted that more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. were blind in 2010, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute. It’s projected that will rise to 2.1 million by 2030 and 4.1 million by 2050.

Contact John Lundy at 




Leave a Reply