While funds are being ploughed into the creation of radical new warfare aids – such as the MITâ??s camera able to see around walls -, scientists at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine cognition are looking a bit closer to home, as they think that the future is quite literally on the tip of the tongue.
Together, the team have devised a piece of technology known as the Brain Port which attacks to the tongue to provide soldiers with total 360 vision even on the darkest of nights, as well as creating animalistic sonar-like capabilities.
How does it work?
The development team say that the concept will work because humans see with their brains rather than their eyes; which are merely a tool for relaying information for the brain to construct. Soldiers wear a helmetÂ containing cameras and sonar equipment which feeds data through to the brain via a strip of 144 electrodes clinging to the tongueâ??s nerve fibres â?? a process which certainly might seem complicated but which results in mental effort no higher than that used when watching and listening to a television at the same time.
This might all sound a little bit crazy â?? and thatâ??s exactly why itâ??s been so successful. The project has been aided by a hefty $350,000 grant from DARPA (the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), who are well known for taking these innovative new ideas through to successful production.
What are the uses? How effective is it?
Soldiers essentially having eyes in the backs of their heads doesnâ??t require much in terms of explanation. Another key issue targeted is that of navigation in areas where sight is limited, such as in dark/night time environments and underwater.
Tests have shown vast improvements in underwater navigation, in which divers have been able to successfully locate their target quickly without difficulty. One soldier described the sensation of wearing the device as similar to that of eating popping candy.
Restricted to the military?
As with a lot of technologies such as this, itâ??s likely that the Brain Port will stay in the confines of the military for a period of time before trickling down into the hands of the public. Whilst thereâ??s no doubt that the intended audience is soldiers, there are certainly a plethora of legitimate uses for everyone else too.
Most obviously, such a device could represent an innovative new method of restoring sight to the visually impaired â?? tests have shown blind people able to find doors and catch balls via the helmet cameras.Â Another women reported a significant increase in balance while wearing the Brain Port, and even claimed that the effect persisted after removal.
As is common in vision enhancing devices, there is also a mind on the emergency services. The team anticipate firefighters using the cameras to see civilians through smoke in burning buildings, and have also said that it could hold benefits for surgeons now that remote-operated robots have found their way into operating theatres.
Further uses are likely, but increased funding is required to make further improvements. The next step, they say, is to make the device smaller and remove wires.
Rob writes for DirectSight – a leading supplier of reading glasses online.
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