Helping the Blind See With Their Tongues

What if we told you there are new innovations that can help about 285 million people around the world living with a visual impairment move around with a little more ease
Okay, it’s easy enough to believe, but what if we told you the innovation works by using the surface of their tongues?
Image: Woman’s face with brightly colored paint on it, indicating the new vision that this advanced technology will bring to peoples lives. Source: Pixabay
Now here’s something that should be celebrated: there’s an increasing number of sensory-substitution devices being developed that use the brain in the most remarkable way. These devices take in visual information from the environment and translate it into forms of physical touch or sound in order to be interpreted by the user as vision.
If that’s not amazing enough, The New Yorker lets us in on yet another benefit:
“While these devices were designed with the goal of restoring lost sensation, in the past decade they have begun to revise our understanding of brain organization and development. The idea that underlies sensory substitution is a radical one: that the brain is capable of processing perceptual information in much the same way, no matter which organ delivers it.” 2
In a few moments, you’ll learn a bit more about just how the advanced technology of the BrainPort® V100 is helping the blind see with their tongues, and feel what kind of impact these innovations can have on someone’s quality of life. Huge thanks to the talented director, Paul Hairston, of Acres for capturing the story of Andy Fabino, and sharing it with us.
 If you’d like to see more work we’ve featured directed by Paul Hairston, check out this article!
The potential for virtual reality systems is making its way into some unexpected corners, and it may even have the power to change lives! Here’s one function it performs that most of us have never considered!
adventurer Erik Weihenmayer climbed Mount Everest and went down in history as the first person to complete this grueling task without sight (no devices used). You can see the rest of his adventures by clicking here, but in the meantime, the video below gives us a look into how BrainPort® is utilized in his life when he isn’t out there conquering the world.
Nearly a decade after this video was uploaded, The New Yorker published an article written by Nicole Twilley. Here’s a small excerpt from her interview with Weihenmayer:
He told me that he had never seen the world particularly well even before he became totally blind. “With the BrainPort, it’s similar to what I used to be able to see like,” he said. “Shapes, shades of light and dark—where things basically were, but not anything super-vivid, you know?”
“When you go blind, you get kicked out of the club,” Weihenmayer told me. Using the BrainPort, he said, makes him feel like part of the gang again. He can see what his family is doing, without anyone needing to tell him. And he can never forget seeing his son smile for the first time.
“I could see his lips sort of shimmering, moving,” Weihenmayer said. “And then I could see his mouth just kind of go ‘Brrrrp’ and take over his whole face. And that was cool, because I’d totally forgotten that smiles do that.” 6
Weihenmayer is working to make it possible for everyone to live without barriers in their life, with a movement thriving on the motto, “what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.” Learn more about No Barriers to be inspired by a beautiful community.
Technology, at its core, is developed to add something to our lives; to break down our barriers, provide ease, increase efficiency, and shine light into the dark spaces.
But this is only progress that can happen if we’re all talking about the fantastic advances being made in technology, and finding ways to make them easily accessible for those who hold the desire to include these devices in their lives.
Please, share this article within your own circles so that this information will land in the right hands.You can learn more about the BrainPort® visual aid by clicking here!
Do you know of any amazing new innovations we haven’t featured yet? We’d love to hear about them!
Keep yourself open to new possibilities!