Helping blind people gain a sense of vision—and doing so through their tongues—sounds like pure science fiction.
It’s now a reality, however, thanks to the BrainPort V100, a wearable medical device developed with help from Proto Labs’ injection molding production process. The device enables users to process visual images with their tongues, and users say the effect is like having “streaming images drawn on their tongue with small bubbles,” according to Wicab Inc., the BrainPort’s Wisconsin-based maker.
That comes from the vibrations or tingling that users feel on the surface of their tongue as information about their environment—captured by a small video camera on the BrainPort headset—gets converted into patterns of electronic stimulation through a small, electrode-embedded mouthpiece.
The BrainPort V100, already for sale in Europe and Canada, achieved a breakthrough recently when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it as an assistive device for the blind and visually impaired to use in conjunction with other aids such as a white cane or guide dog.
Wicab turned to Proto Labs for on-demand injection molding production components to develop and launch this technology, including the existing BrainPort V100, and a new model now in development, the next generation BrainPort Vision Pro.