It seems that Braille is on its way to becoming overrated, as The Food and Drug Administration just came from approving a device that can help blind people orient themselves by processing visual images with the help of their tongues.
Blind people will be able to read letters of the alphabet as well and will be able to feel the surroundings with the help of this new apparatus that is a battery powered gadget embodied with a small video camera mounted on a pair of glasses and a small mouthpiece with 400 electrodes.
It works in a quite simple manner, with the user holding the device on his tongue while images gathered by the camera are converted into electrical signals that tingle like champagne does. This is an immense piece of discovery, allowing blind people to contact more of the unseen and imagine a reality that is highly similar to the one they are living in.
The more so numbers of blind people are rapidly increasing in US alone. The National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute, in 2010 there were more than 1.2 million blind people in US. According to predictions, the number of American citizens exposed to blindness in the future will rise to 2.1 million by 2030 and with 4.1 million by 2050.
The FDA reviewed data for the BrainPortV100, as the device was named, through the novo premarket review pathway, a regulatory system for low-to moderate-risk medical devices that are not equivalent to a legally marketed device.
The device has been running under serious testing, such as object recognition and word identification, along with oral health exams to assess the degree of risk associated with holding the device in the mouth. Recent studies revealed that 69% of subjects that completed one year of training with the new apparatus have proved to be successful at the object recognition test.
The intra-oral device has unpleasant effects also, reported stinging and metallic taste were outlined. The device is not yet perfect but it gets close to perfection as it passes all the trials and tribulations of official approval. There are no serious adverse effects reported and its benefits come with immense satisfaction.
As the performance of this device improves, users will be able to learn how to interpret signals and assess the size, shape and location of objects, along with state of movement. The device can run for long hours provided it is fully charged and is meant to complement rather than replace other forms of assistance.
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