Blind Brit soldier learns to 'see' with his tongue

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London, March 16 (ANI): Lance Corporal Craig Lundberg was blinded by a grenade in Iraq but new technology has helped him to "see" with his tongue.

Lundberg, 24, who lost his sight when he was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade while serving in Basra in 2007, can read words, identify shapes and walk unaided thanks to the BrainPort device.

A resident of Walton, Liverpool, he now plays blind football for England.

Life could have been bleak and dismal for Lundberg but everything changed when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) chose him to be the first person to try the BrainPort.

The BrainPort changes visual images into a sequence of electrical pulses, which are sent to the tongue. The varying strength of the tingles can be read or interpreted helping the user to mentally visualise their surroundings and navigate around objects.

The device comprises a tiny video camera attached to a pair of sunglasses linked to a plastic "lolly pop" which the user places on their tongue to decipher the electrical pulses.

"It feels like licking a nine volt battery or like popping candy," the Independent quoted Lundberg, as saying.

He went on: "The camera sends signals down onto the lolly pop and onto your tongue. You can then determine what they mean and transfer it to shapes.

"You get lines and shapes of things. It sees in black and white so you get a two-dimensional image on your tongue - it's a bit like a pins and needles sensation.

"It's only a prototype, but the potential to change my life is massive. It's got a lot of potential to advance things for blind people.

"One of the things it has enabled me to do is pick up objects straight away. I can reach out and pick them up when before I would be fumbling around to feel for them.

"There is no way I'm getting rid of my guide dog Hugo, though - I love him.

"This is another mobility device, it's not the be-all and end-all of my disability."

Unveiling the BrainPort at the MoD headquarters in Whitehall, US Major General Gale Pollock, who worked on the scheme, said: "It's just so exciting to finally be able to say to people: here is a tool that may help you and start to restore hope to the visually impaired community. It's just wonderful."

Group Captain Rob Scott, who is Lundberg's eye doctor, said: "It is certainly a device with absolutely huge potential.

"The BrainPort is a device that effectively lets blind people see through their tongue. What it uses is electro-tactile stimulation as a sensory substitution for vision.

"It allows an image of their surroundings to be experienced and helps find your way about a place. It is designed to help orientation in an unfamiliar environment." (ANI)

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