Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Blinded Merseyside soldier 'sees' with tongue device

Advertisement

L/Cpl Craig Lundberg has become the first soldier to test the glasses

A Merseyside soldier blinded by a grenade in Iraq has said his life has been turned around by technology that allows him to "see" with his tongue.

L/Cpl Craig Lundberg, 24, from Walton, Merseyside, can read words, identify shapes and walk unaided using the BrainPort device.

The machine converts visual images into a series of electrical pulses which are sent to his tongue.

The soldier said the device gives off "a pins and needles sensation".

L/Cpl Lundberg lost his sight while serving with the King's Regiment after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade in 2007.

'Popping candy'

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected him to trial the pioneering device which is comprised of a tiny video camera attached to a pair of sunglasses linked to a plastic "lolly pop" which the user places on their tongue to read the electrical pulses.

L/Cpl Lundberg said it felt like "licking a nine volt battery or like popping candy".

"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," he said.

"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."

L/Cpl Lundberg said he would still be keeping his guide dog Hugo.

The MoD said it expected to pay about £18,000 for the device and training to enable the trial to take place.

Users cannot speak or eat while using the BrainPort so designers are hoping to create a smaller device that could be permanently fixed behind the teeth or to the roof of the mouth enabling more natural use.

HOW TONGUE TECHNOLOGY HELPS SOLDIER 'SEE'
Graphic of how the tongue technology works
1. Camera in glasses sends images to base unit in hand-held device
2. Images are translated into stimulation pattern to send to mouthpiece
3. Electrodes on tongue pulse according to lightness of image pixels
4. Users learn to recognise patterns, movement and high-contrast objects



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
"You have to get on with it"
29 Oct 09 |  UK
Guide dog changes soldier's life
14 Apr 09 |  Merseyside

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific