Mmm, Tastes like...Sunshine
October 17, 2014 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Computer-brain interface device aims to help blind people 'see' Mark Pappas, who has been blind for 14 years, searched for a packet of sugar on the table in front of him by running his tongue across the 400 electrodes in his mouth... he was able to locate the sugar, a white plastic spoon and a white paper cup that had been placed on a black cloth. posted by Michele in California (8 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This is very, very cool, but it seems to be in no way a computer-brain interface, is it? I would define that as something that takes a stimulus and directly stimulates the brain. This takes a stimulus and translates it into a different stimulus that is then perceived in the normal, external fashion. This is more like... super-advanced, real-time braille.
posted by brainmouse at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Quite a few years ago, we're pretty much talking analogue era here, something similar was done by hooking up a camera to a device built into a chair back; which had an array of pins -- pretty low res, maybe 50x50 -- which vibrated according to how light or dark that "pixel' was. With practice the subject could vaguely 'see' an object if it was sufficiently contrasty, though it helped if you slowly moved the camera.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:42 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Paul Bach-y-Rita developed the device in the chair back, 1967. This tongue thing has been around at least a decade, because I remember it writing up my thesis in 2005. Glad they're progressing towards product, though I would be astonished if it's a commercial success!
posted by alasdair at 12:49 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Glad they're progressing towards product,

It has been approved for sale in Canada and Europe. So there is a product already.
posted by Michele in California at 12:51 PM on October 17, 2014

The same approach was deployed in the 1970s for an independent tactile reading machine called the Optacon. A small processor presented a dense 144-pin array to the user's fingertip. A lipstick-size wand containing a red-eye camera was connected via cord.

Like the tool in this post, it was not braille (a set arrangement of 6 or 8 dots) but a relatively low-res high-contrast free-form vibrating image.

Blind users who could afford it ($3500 in 1975!), and who had an effective familiarity with the shapes of printed languages, adored their Optacons. They could and did read printed materials, typescript, prescription bottles, Bibles, clothing labels, set-theoretic topology papers, music and (with a camera-steadying attachment) computer screens.

Deborah Kent Stein, an expert user, ponders its past, present and future in this essay from 1998. No better news since.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:08 PM on October 17, 2014

Hmm. A Google Glass app + an induction-charged, Bluetooth LE-controlled electrode array in the mouth is an interesting product waiting to happen.
posted by suedehead at 9:44 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

One blind guy I know of used the Optacon on the Playboy centrefold...

Nope, it's been "cleared for sale". But you can't buy it. From the FAQ: "Is it commercially available? The BrainPort V100 is cleared for sale in Canada. Wicab will be opening the first Canadian training site at Centric Health." Sounds promising, but vapourware is common in disability tech.
posted by alasdair at 1:16 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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