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Blind Soldier Uses Tongue To "See" 107

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the in-the-future-we'll-all-be-robots dept.
Zen found this story about a blind soldier using a lollypop-sized tongue sensor to 'see.' The system actually enables him to walk and read unaided. The guy says, "It feels like licking a nine-volt battery or like popping candy. The camera sends signals down onto the lollypop and onto your tongue, you can then determine what they mean and transfer it to shapes."
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Blind Soldier Uses Tongue To "See"

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  • Keep an eye on the LHC this guy might use it to weaponize some warhead full of nanomachines...
    god that was a bad movie
  • Camera (Score:5, Funny)

    by RobVB (1566105) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:24PM (#31497300)

    Thank god this system uses a camera and a tongue sensor. The title made me think of that creepy guy on the bus that licks everything.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      "Don't worry, you have nothing to fear from Tongue Tongue - he's only tasting you. But likewise don't resist for he can crush you quite easily. The tongue is a very powerful muscle and Tongue Tongue is all tongue and I am Dr. Mong Mong. Now release the nice mothman, Tongue Tongue - here is an individually-wrapped slice of processed cheese." ... and once Tongue Tongue is trapped in Arthur's body, and is sobbing and licking the floor...

      "He weeps for he has but one small tongue with which to taste an entire wo

    • Well, let him lick my epic plate of OWW and death! Let’s see how he likes that. ;)

      On another note: Can that soldier now tell us, how photons taste? ^^
      Homer: Mmmmhhh.... photons...

    • by boniggy (1753428)

      Thank god this system uses a camera and a tongue sensor. The title made me think of that creepy guy on the bus that licks everything.

      rofl... i was thinkin the same thing... had a funny visual going for a second there.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      "The snozberries taste like snozberries!"

  • by ircmaxell (1117387) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:27PM (#31497332) Homepage
    Yet another example of the adaptability of the human brain. I wonder what the resolution of such a system would be? What's the possibility of being able to read with it?

    And a minor pedantic point. It's not a sensor on his tongue. A sensor is an input device. This is an output device (relative to the computer "device")...
    • Yes, the brain really is remarkable.
      I've seen different variants on this a few times, like encoding images in what to me sounds like modem noise but according to the blind people in question apparently let them see a picture .
      Or when they were trying to hook monkeys up to an artificial arm with a direct neural interface and once it started working a little and the primates started getting feedback from the arms they found that while the researchers were trying to improve their algorithms for interpreting th

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        There was an earlier version that used a golf ball camera. Vertical was the frequency spectrum -- high for up, and low for down. Horizontal was the time delay from start. Using it was described as like learning a new language. If this is the same thing, the hardware was revised.

        http://www.seeingwithsound.com/ [seeingwithsound.com]

      • My mother spent her entire career teaching disabled children. One of her jobs was teaching children who were totally deaf and blind. These children had no trouble navigating out of the school, to the shop and the local park. They knew every step.

        One time a child was put in a taxi to go home and the driver got the destination wrong. As soon as he went off the route his passenger told him he was going the wrong way.

        Even if your ears don't work at all every nerve in your body can detect vibration, and process

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What's the possibility of being able to read with it?

      The system actually enables him to walk and read unaided

      I would say 100%

      • Well, I guess I should have clarified a bit more. When I said read, I mean read normal text (a book, a screen, etc), not just a few giant letters put in the field of view (Which given the resolution --400px-- is a fair assumption about how they define read)...
        • by ultranova (717540)

          Well, I guess I should have clarified a bit more. When I said read, I mean read normal text (a book, a screen, etc), not just a few giant letters put in the field of view (Which given the resolution --400px-- is a fair assumption about how they define read)...

          A suitable arrangement of lenses/electronics could probably be used to focus or widen the field of vision as needed. 20x20 pixels is good enough to recognize letters one or two at a time. Might be a bit slower than normal reading, but...

          Besides, once t

    • by AP31R0N (723649)

      That's not pedantic. It's right. i wish i had mod points for you. His tongue is the input, the lollypop is the output.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @03:06PM (#31499836) Journal

      Yet another example of the adaptability of the human brain.

      More than some might realize.

      Some decades ago (when a camera was not practically portable) a similar device was built with an array of vibrators on the back for the interface. This worked as well (though the resolution was necessarily low both because of the size of the vibrators and because the back has a low density of touch sensors).

      But one event was telling:

      At one point the camera tipped over into the scene it was viewing. The subject reflexively threw his hands up to "protect his eyes". (Later the blind-from-birth subject said he now had a referent for the word "looming".)

      This event implies that the subject's brain had routed the input from the touch sensors on his back into his visual processing at a stage before the "dangerously close incoming object" detection. So he was "really seeing" without eyes.

      • by trygstad (815846)
        This device probably derives from an ongoing study at the University of Wisconsin. In this study the researchers discovered that after several weeks of using the device, the information it was providing would begin to be processed by the visual cortex, confirmed by actual measurement of brain activity. So as ircmaxell and Ungrounded Lightning noted, there is solid evidence that somehow the human brain is able to reroute connections to ensure that sensory input is processed properly. I wish I could cite a sc
      • The science behind it has a name and this article is a good intro to it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity [wikipedia.org]

        It also works with hearing. My mother has an implant which transformed her from almost deaf to... Well, in some cases she's got cyborg super-hearing because the microphones are sometimes rather high-tech. Details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlear_implant [wikipedia.org]

        Personally I'm waiting for a cyborg Ethernet adapter, since I don't think abstract information is any hindrance for neuroplasticity. Wit

        • The choclea evolved from the lateral line of the fishes, coiling up to fit inside the head and modifying the wave path so what used to map into direction now maps into pitch.

          Perhaps that might be reverse engineered so we can generate a sound that produces the original "fish acoustic vision" sensation of directionality and intensity for impulse noise ("something is twitching THERE").

          (And perhaps that's what the "sounds like modem tones, maps into vision" thing mentioned earlier is up to?)

    • by Techman83 (949264)
      I'm just curious of whether it would work differently for someone who never had sight. TFA states

      A soldier who was blinded by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq three years ago has been fitted with a device that allows him to "see" with his tongue, enabling him to visualise shapes, read words and walk unaided.

    • by SimonGhent (57578)

      What's the possibility of being able to read with it?

      I saw a TV report on this and it showd him "reading" the word CAT in 4" high black on white letters.

      Really quite amazing, but similar in a way to Braille.

    • by JobyOne (1578377)
      Not even FTFA - FTFS(ummary)!

      The system actually enables him to walk and read unaided.

      Granted, at the moment I'm sure they mean stuff like signs. Once it's upgraded to 4,000 points though I would imagine reading larger print books would be no problem.

  • by Mantis8 (876944) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:28PM (#31497340)
    He has his problem licked!
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:29PM (#31497366)

    The man with one tongue is king.

  • We covered something four years ago similar to this [slashdot.org] and I think Brain Port has been exploiting the sensivity of the tongue for multiple fields. I think I had read another article about the military using this because they could control their individual movements more efficiently and silently due to the extreme sensitivity of the tongue.

    Sci-fi has long written about sensory perception extensions but I enjoy hearing about the exploitation of our most sensitive inputs. It's amazing to think that we ha
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PPalmgren (1009823)

      We also covered this last year [slashdot.org]

    • by Sifonki (1289164)

      "lower hanging fruit... from sensitive areas of touch... underwear"

      We all saw a mile away where you were going there... but seriously, combined with the tongue input device it could possibly make people more willing to "see eye to eye" on things.

  • Wouldn't this affect his taste buds greatly having a feeling of a 9 volt battery constantly?
    • by blueskies (525815)

      Well it is definitely rewiring tongue sensations for visual images. If he is blind, his sense of taste is already greatly enhanced, since all of his senses should have started using the visual cortex. They are just using some of the visual cortex for visual processing again, but this time via the tongue.

  • edited (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:31PM (#31497412)
    I hate it when they edit interviews. From the original conversation:

    "Ith theelth ike hicking a gnine-holt batthery or hike popping khandy."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:32PM (#31497430)

    From this guy's experience, a majority of stuff looks just like chicken.

  • Cool thing is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@justconne c t e d . n et> on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:39PM (#31497522)

    before long, he won't be thinking about deciphering "square", "circle", "room" etc. If my understanding is correct, he really will be able to see with his tongue, in the same way you or I see with our eyes. It'll wire the tongue up to the vision center.

    The brain is flippin' cool.

    • Re:Cool thing is... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mgrassi99 (514152) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @01:06PM (#31497950)

      So once its all wired up, what happens when he eats? Does he "see" his food? Synthesia for flavors?

      • by StuartHankins (1020819) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @01:17PM (#31498124)
        The pasta is noticeably triangular, with mild hints of rhomboids and parallelograms. The finish is decidedly circular, which earns this dish a top rating. Four stars!
      • I think his taste isn't affected much. The electro shocks are inadequate signal for the taste buds, which are chemoreceptors. The cells reacting to the shocks may be mechanoreceptors, like the cells responsible for the sense of touch in skin. The shocks are inadequate signals for them as well, but still closer. The brain just started to "see" meaningful information in those shocks. It's similar to the guy (link lost, lazy to google) who made himself a kind of belt with vibrating motors around it coupled to
    • by srussia (884021)

      before long, he won't be thinking about deciphering "square", "circle", "room" etc. If my understanding is correct, he really will be able to see with his tongue, in the same way you or I see with our eyes. It'll wire the tongue up to the vision center.

      The brain is flippin' cool.

      "Square, circle, room" isn't quite "blonde, brunette, redhead", is it? Hopefully, he's got some memories to fall back on.

  • Check out the book "The Brain that Changes Itself" if you're interested in this sort of thing.
  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:41PM (#31497570) Homepage Journal

    With all the exercise this guy gets, I'll bet he's very popular with the ladies.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      With all the exercise this guy gets, I'll bet he's very popular with the ladies.

      It's more like gymnastics than weightlifting; technique is everything, and it takes practice to be good at it.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        It's more like gymnastics than weightlifting; technique is everything, and it takes practice to be good at it.

        Or so the guys with scrawny tongues say, anyway.

  • by vivin (671928) <vivin DOT paliath AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:44PM (#31497618) Homepage Journal

    Back then it was just an experiment. Cool to see it being used in practice. Here is the link that goes to ABC news:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=2401551&page=1 [go.com]

    Also, technically he's not a "soldier". He's a "marine". Us Army guys are "soliders" :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We prefer the term "mentally handicapped".

      Signed,
      U.S. Marine

    • by Olix (812847)

      Also, technically he's not a "soldier". He's a "marine". Us Army guys are "soliders" :)

      Uh?

      Lance Corporal Craig Lundberg, 24, from Walton, Liverpool, lost his sight while on patrol with the 2nd Battalion Duke of Lancaster's in Basra in 2007.

      How is he a marine? He appears to be a British soldier. The British Marines are nothing like the US Marines - they are commando units used for specific, maritime activities, rather than being general purpose, semi-elite troopers.

      • by vivin (671928)

        That was my bad. When I saw "Lance Corporal", I immediately thought "Marines".

        • Lance Corporal is the Army rank traditionally identified by one right-side-up chevron.

          No telling what other crazy things will happen if your Army chooses to to sew their insignia on upside-down.

          (I kid - the chevron was originally worn point-up; the word chevron comes from the french word for rafters)

  • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Tuesday March 16, 2010 @12:45PM (#31497630) Homepage

    Perfect new technology for judging wet tee shirt contests...

  • http://www.gizmag.com/visually-impaired-see-the-world-sound/12164/ [gizmag.com] Instead of using electric pulses that the person has to translate, sound pulses are used. I still think it'd be cool if they made a completely artificial eyeball or something like that because i seriously doubt translating signals like that is even close to the 1337nessof real eyesight.
  • I'd imagine that it wouldn't be too difficult to use a wireless link from the camera to a battery powered dental retainer like receiver (think junior high and pimples). This way, the wearer, wouldn't draw unnecessary gawking. A few drawbacks, perhaps, would be that the tongue would need to be flush with the retainer on the roof of the mouth, so no talking whilst looking. Also, if you are running up a flight of stairs and need to draw breath through the mouth, it may impede vision. I am sure, a sighted p
    • by aXis100 (690904)

      Put it on the roof of your mouth - you can still hold your tongue there whilst you open your mouth to breath. Doesnt help with talking though.

  • Did anyone else think "Wow, if he wore earplugs and glasses to cover his eyes, he'd be just like the converts in Tommy, the rock opera."?
  • Though Google seems to have lost most of the articles, I remembered this from back in 2002, and I was able to find at least a few results such as Eyes in the Back of Your Mouth [wired.com]. It sounds like this article is talking about improvements (more refined matrix, portability) and deployments of the same technology. A quote from the link above:

    His latest technology sends visual data through the tongue, which is jam-packed with nerves and coated with conductive saliva. A video camera worn on the forehead sends im

  • Does this mean that blind people can now read PLAYBOY for more than just the articles?

  • ...that will enable me to learn to see infrared, or magnetic resonance, or metal detection, or high-pitched sounds that only dogs can hear, or police radar?
    • by lessthan (977374)
      If you want to see magnetic fields, there is already a low tech method here [bmezine.com]. You coat small rare earth magnets with silicone or titanium and implant them into your fingertips. The vibrations cause by the movement of the field allow you to "see" it.
  • "I'm sorry, I don't know what you look like, do you mind if I lick your face?"
    On the other hand, if this becomes common, I could pretend to be blind. I have a terrible licking habit.
  • I would like to meet him. This might be a nice opportunity for me to test whether my sour smile actually works.
  • Oh, I think you have something in your teeth, let me take a look. Ohh and I love your necklace. Wonderful skirt. You are such a snappy dresser!

  • This guy wouldn't last 5 minutes in a strip club.
  • The blind gynecologists of the world rejoice!

    The blind proctologists can't be reached for comment, but rumor has it they are indisposed due to a sudden onset of nausea.

  • He weeps, for he has but one small tongue with which to taste^H^H^H^H^H see an entire world.

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