BrainPort V100: A Device Helping the Blind See With Their Tongue

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How BrainPort V100 works

What is BrainPort V100?

Blind people now have a better mobility help than just a walking stick (cane) or a guide dog. It is a device known as the BrainPort V100. This is an oral electronic device innovated to offer vision aid to profoundly blind people. The device is meant to help a person improve their object recognition, spatial awareness and generally ease their movement.

Experts say that a tongue is a better sensory organ than even the finger tips. It has more nerve fibers close to its surface more than any other body part. It also lacks an outer layer of dead skin cells making it the ideal organ for sensory perception in this case.

BrainPort V100 was approved back in June 2015, by the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) agency. The device has undergone numerous advancements and in May 2019, the visual clarity has increased tremendously compared to how it was back in 2016. This means that in the near future the blind might get close to seeing just like normal vision people.

A survey published by the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness in March, 2016 shows no adverse effects on using BrainPort V100 meaning very minimal risks would be associated with its use. This study had 57 participants use the device for one year; it reported 91.2% success rate in object recognition and 57.9% in Orientation and Mobility (O&M).

The fact that BrainPort V100 is nonsurgical makes it a highly independent device for the blind person. It is totally noninvasive meaning that one would not have fears of what would happen in case they needed to stop using it. This external device increases the safety of those people who have access to minimal or no light at all.

BrainPort V100 provides the user with more information than assistive conventional devices can enabling them to understand their environment better. It assists them perform their daily living activities with ease.

How Does BrainPort V100 Operate?

Initially, the blind person is taken through a training on how to interpret the patterns of electrostimulations presented by BrainPort V100.

The device uses the surface of one’s tongue to decode information from the environment through a concept of sensory substitution. This information is captured by the use of a digital camera installed in a pair of glasses. This visual information is then displayed on the surface of a person’s tongue in form of electro-tactile stimulation; a person feels the information as a series of vibrations.

A BrainPort V100 user feels bubble-like patterns moving on the surface of their tongue. These they are able to interpret as size, shape, location as well as motion of objects around them. This is what is referred to as ‘seeing with the tongue.’

BrainPort V100 has a zoom function. With that, the user can increase visibility/clarity of objects relatively increasing recognition.

 Proven Success

Participants of the survey (mentioned previously in this article) confirmed that using BrainPort V100, they were able to perform the following tasks:

  • Walking with a companion through a building; while doing so they were able to follow their companion’s movement.
  • Reading words on a book cover
  • Locating doorways and windows
  • Identifying the mailboxes and driveways outside the house
  • Identifying numbered buttons on a remote control
  • Navigating around obstacles at home

BrainPort V100 is similarly effective in both congenitally blind and those with acquired blindness. The only difference that might be there is that congenitally blind one requires some training on letter shapes in order to be able to spot read.

Important to note is that it is not as easy to learn to use BrainPort V100. It is a practice that calls for willingness, patience and commitment as one would invest while learning a foreign language.

As is evident through the above discussion, BrainPort V100 is a device that has been tested and proven. It makes the lives of the blind people easy and independent by ensuring they can comfortably move around, spot read and recognize objects in their environment.