Brain Port Device – An Eye for the Blind

  • Post author:

Brain Port, a device to help blind people to regain their eyesight.


 Rishav Biswas
Engineering Sciences & Humanities Department
Thakur College Of Engineering And Technology

Mumbai, India

Yash Amin
Engineering Sciences &  Humanities Department
Thakur College Of Engineering And Technology
Mumbai, India

Mrs. Rajni Bahuguna
Engineering Sciences &  Humanities Department
Thakur College Of Engineering And Technology
Mumbai, India

Meghana Anthikad
Engineering Sciences &  Humanities Department
Thakur College Of Engineering And Technology
Mumbai, India

Abstract – Technology has advanced at quite an exponential rate in the past few decades and has made our lives a lot easier than it used to be. Technological advancement in the field of medicine has allowed people to get rid of their maladies and impairments. For instance, we have hearing aids for those who cannot hear or bionic prosthetics for those with missing limbs. But is there a device to help the millions of blind or visually impaired people in the world?

Keywords—BrainPort, electrotactile stimulation, sensory substitution, electrical impulses.

Introduction to Brain Port

BrainPort is a device which facilitates in vision on the premise of electrotactile substitution. A camera captures images which are converted into encoded electrical impulses. The electrical impulses are applied on the surface of the tongue where nerve endings receive the signal and send them to the brain. The brain interprets these signals and the user of the device can see images.

After training of using the device, laboratory tests conducted on the subjects showed that visual traits like  perspective, orientation, size and shape, were able to be perceived by the blind subjects. The subjects were able to feel pulses on their tongue and were able to perceive images generated by their brain from the electrical pulses.

A study carried out on congenitally blind people, conducted PET scans of the brain while they were using the BrainPort vision device. The study found out that the parts of brain responsible for sense of vision were activated in the subjects’ brain when visual information was transmitted via the tongue after using the BrainPort device several number of times.

Electrotactile substitution
What is electrotactile substitution?

When a human views an object, the optical image that is entering the eye does not go beyond the retina. Instead,  the image turns into “Spatio-temporal nerve patterns” of impulses that travel along the optical nerve fibers. By examining the pattern of impulses, the brain recreates the image. Sensory information to the brain is passed on by the skin, ears, and eyes which are also set up in an identical manner.  The brain seems to be elastic when it comes to reading sensory input, which is why the biggest challenge that scientists at research face had to go through was to exchange one sensory input channel for another and how to send it to the brain through the alternate channel that has the encoded signal of a particular sensory event.

The ideas at work in the domain of electrotactile stimulation for sensory substitution are complex, therefore the implementation of the ideas is quite challenging as well. The concept is to communicate non-tactile information, to the brain, via electrical stimulation of the sense of touch.

In practice, this generally means that an array of electrodes receiving input from a non- tactile information source (a camera in this case) applies small, controlled, low-intensity currents (some subjects report it feeling something like soda bubbles) to the skin at specific locations according to an encoded pattern.

For a blind person, the encoded electrical patterns are an imitation of the signals that would be received from a completely functioning sense of vision. Therefore, the patterns of light are picked up by a camera to form an image, replacing the functioning of the eye, and these images are converted into electrical pulses that represent those patterns of light in the image captured.

In other words, when the encoded electrical pulses are applied to the skin, the skin is in effect receiving image data which would be then sent to the brain in the forms of impulses.

How does electrotactile substitution work?

Under normal circumstances, the parietal lobe is the part of the brain that receives information associated with touch, whereas the occipital lobe receives visual information. When the nerve fibres forward the image-encoded touch signals to the parietal lobe, the electric field thus generated in subcutaneous tissue directly excites the afferent nerve fibres responsible for touch sensations.

Within the system, an electrode array can be used to communicate non-touch information through channels to the brain normally used for the transferring of touch related impulses.

Nowadays, researchers are looking at endless ways to utilize the apparent willingness of the brain to adapt cross-sensory input. Throughout the past few decades, they have been developed to send the encoded current to the fingertips, abdomen or back. The breakthrough of the BrainPort technology is the idea to use the tongue as the alternative to skin for the channel for sensory substitution.


  • Digital camera –  A small sized digital video camera is used which is placed on top the sunglasses that the user is required to wear.
  • Stimulation Circuitry – Controls the waveform of the stimulus and converts signal into desired voltage and current intensity. Functions of the stimulation circuit is to select the appropriate stimulation voltage and sending the signal to the required electrode
  • Electrode array – A grid of 400 electrodes that is placed on the tongue through which impulses are passed to the tongue.
  • Control unit – The CPU converts the digital data into pulses with the help of a program.
  • Power supply – Supplies power for the functioning of the device. Power supply is a Lithium battery of dimensions: diameter 20mm, height 3.2mm. The battery provides a voltage of 3.3V and current 135mA. [6].


  • A digital video camera is mounted on a pair of sunglasses to capture images in digital form. This data of captured light from each pixel in the camera is sent through a wire to the control unit.
  • The CPU collects the digital data from the camera and runs a program which converts the signals into uniquely spaced pulses that are encoded according to the characteristics of the image such as light intensity, where white pixels represent strong stimulation, grey pixels represent medium level stimulation, and black pixels represent no stimulation.

The stimulation circuitry converts the signals into voltage signals or current signals depending upon what the user has chosen. The right value of voltage is selected in such a way that it corresponds to the signal sent by the CPU. It also selects the correct voltage impulse that has to be sent to respective electrodes for generation of the image.

The converted impulses are sent to the electrode array which applies a certain current to the tongue according to the impulses and the user is able to see and identify images. [7]

Brainport Balance
  1. Advantages
  • The Brain port Vision device isn’t exactly a substitute for the eyes or the sense of vision however it procures other sensory organs of the user to attain information about the surroundings.
  • The device can be manoeuvred without any assistance simply with the help of a remote control.
  • The device is just like a normal sunglass and hence it doesn’t look dreadful or lousy.
  • The Brain port device is a tongue based technology. Such technological tools are user-friendly and simple to manage.
  1. Drawbacks
  2. The  person should be the above the age of 18 and his other senses should be in proper working condition.
  3. For this device to work the person should be mentally fit and psychologically stable .
  4. This technology can’t be modified to work on senses the brain doesn’t have.
  5. The device cannot be used by patients that have become blind due some kind of brain damage.
  6. The brain has to go through training and daily practice for the device to work.
  7. When it comes into market its price will be roughly around $10,000(7,00,000Rs) so it can’t be afforded by the common people.
  • Occasionally, it produces a weak metallic taste on the tongue, a minor side effect.
  • As it can also be used on roads for navigational purposes, the image created in the mind should be a clear one to avoid accidents.
  • After effects of this device include loss of balance.
Image formation


  • Beyond the medical implementation of the device, attempts are being made by scientists for exploring potential military uses. Underwater applications are being examined which could potentially provide with navigation information and signals in dark, clouded water.
  • The humans controlling the robots for various tasts can get physical responses . For example, UW Professor Nicola Ferrier is working on the development of a robot that could be controlled by people with quadriplegia using just their tongues. Touch sensors could be incorporated into its gripper, relaying the touch information back to the user’s tongue.
  • Use the device for recreational purposes such as virtual reality gaming where the player can experience the other senses that cannot be usually felt while playing a game and completely change the gaming experience for gamers.
  • Improvement in the area of electronic systems could help decrease the size of the device to such an extent that the whole computer system that does the processing be fit inside the mouth along with the electrode array.
  • Use radio frequency waves to transmit image information from the camera to the device so as to decrease the number of wires being used.

Robotic surgery can be taken to a whole new level where the surgeon can wear electrotactile gloves to receive the tactile input from the robotic arms. This way the surgeon can feel what he is doing.

  • Fighter pilots must always be on the tip of their toes to detect approaching enemy aircrafts. The brainport can help them by sending pulses on their tongue so that they can take the required step. A visual signal takes much more time to interpret because to reach the brain it must first be scanned by the retina. By necessary training the pulse on their tongue could elicit a shorter reaction time.
  • Professional racecar drivers can use electrotactile stimulation for feedback and help them improve their reaction times.

Science has always offered humankind with answers and solutions, and it will continue to do so, while contemporaneously bearing us with modification upon foregoing technologies or new technologies altogether. 

However much science may have procured to bettering our lives, there is still plenty of advancement to be made.

We are always looking for areas in which our multifaceted privileges can be manipulated to restructure areas of science, engineering, and technology, and to improve the quality of life for millions of people.

The BrainPort vision device allows users to directly and independently distinguish the environment in an unusual and innovative way. The knowledge enables an authorizing sensory skill with which users are able to direct their concentration at their own urge and interpret the information themselves.

Foremost advantages include better and enhanced safety, agility, and object acknowledgment. Subsidiary benefits include employing the technology directed towards specific hobbies and recreational situations.

In work or school, it will help the individual to use his abilities up to his/her maximum potential thus improving his/her quality of life. When the option of not wearing prosthetics or not undergoing an operation comes the number of patients seeking this as an alternative option increases.

Thus brain port vision device proves a way to enlighten the visionless people using the technology. [8]


Hope you like the content of brain port.

Also Read: How to Write Abstract in Research Paper

Read Our Technical Research Papers Click Me

We hope you liked the content of our page Read EveryDay Blogs at dailyblogday India’s Blogging Site.

This Post Has One Comment

Leave a Reply