Blind Man Sees With His Tongue

A British soldier who lost his sight in Iraq is being taught to 'see' with his tongue, using a revolutionary new device.

Craig Lundberg, 24, who was blinded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack three years ago, is the first British soldier to test the BrainPort system. The device consists of a high-tech "lollipop" that rests on Craig's tongue. It converts images from a video camera, that he wears on a pair of glasses, into signals that stimulate electrodes on the lollipop.

The $15,000 device works on the principle of sensory substitution. The brain recognizes that the signals stimulating the tongue have nothing to do with taste, and re-routes them to the visual center of the brain for processing. The brain is able to interpret the image, giving Craig rudimentary vision.

He described the device as absolutely fantastic: "Whatever the camera is looking at, I can feel the image on my tongue," he said.

The system has allowed him to make out the top letters on an optician's eye test. "I could feel with my tongue that the first letter was an A, and then I moved on to the next one. It was amazing," said Lundeberg.

"Then I walked down a corridor and I could make out the doorways, the walls and people coming towards me."

Mr Lundberg's BrainPort system has been jointly funded by the Ministry of Defense and St Dunstan's, the charity for blind ex-servicemen and women.

"I am a realist," he said. "I know this isn't going to give me my sight back, but it could be the next best thing."