The FDA Approves a Device That Lets Blind People 'See' With Their Tongues

The FDA has given the green light to a device that helps blind people recognize visual stimuli using their mouths. The BrainPort V100 includes a pair of sunglasses equipped with a video camera with a small electrode pad attached by a cord and an iPhone-sized control pad.

The video camera converts visual imagery to electrical signals that the user feels on their tongue. The stimulation varies based on the color of things on the low-resolution grayscale image from the video. White pixels become a strong stimulation, gray pixels medium stimulation, and black pixels no stimulation.

The user holds the device against his or her tongue, translating the lines and shapes traced by its 400 electrodes into images in the brain, almost like an electric version of Braille. (See it at work in this video from the BBC, featuring a blind rock climber using the device.)

Users report the sensation as pictures that are painted on the tongue with tiny bubbles,” according to Wicab, the Wisconsin-based company that makes the product. The device does take some getting used to; the company recommends at least 10 hours of training with it. And users report some negative side effects, like a metallic taste or stinging associated with the electrode pad. 

But for some, it does provide the ability to recognize visuals through a series of vibrations on the tongue. In research, 69 percent of users were able to successfully recognize objects after one year of training with the BrainPort V100. The FDA foresees this device being able to help millions of people. The National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute projects that there will be 2.1 million Americans who are blind by 2030, up from 1.2 million in 2010. 

Newfound sight doesn’t come cheap, though. The device is commercially available, but costs around $10,000. 

[h/t: Popular Science]

All images courtesy Wicab Inc.

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Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

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Apple
Here's a Preview of the 70 New Emojis Coming to Your iPhone
Apple
Apple

Get ready to add a whole new set of symbols to your emoji vocabulary. As CNN reports, Apple has released a sneak peak of some of the 70 new emojis coming to iOS in late 2018.

In February 2018, the Unicode Consortium announced the latest additions to their official emoji database. Software makers have since been working on customizing the designs for their own operating systems, and now iPhone and iPad users are getting a preview of what the new emojis will look like on their devices.

One of the most highly anticipated new symbols is the redhead emoji, something people have been demanding for a while. A curly haired option, another popular request, will be added to the line-up, as will gray-hair and bald emoji choices. Each of the new hair types can be added to the classic face emoji regardless of gender, but when it comes to specific characters like the bride or the jogger emojis, users will be limited to the same hair options they had before.

If Apple users ever want to express their inner superhero, two new super characters, a man and woman, will let them do so. They will also have new "smiley" symbols to choose from, like a party emoji, a sad eyes emoji, and a frozen emoji.

In the food category you have a head of lettuce and a mango, and for dessert, a cupcake and a mooncake—a festive Chinese pastry. New animals include a peacock, a kangaroo, and a lobster. The lobster emoji stirred some controversy in February when Mainers noticed the Unicode version was missing a set of legs. The design was quickly revised, and Apple's version is also anatomically correct.

These images just show a small sample of the emojis that will be included in an iOS update planned for later in 2018. Users will have to wait to see the final designs for other the symbols on the list.

New Apple emojis.
Apple

New Apple emojis.
Apple

New Apple emojis.
Apple

New Apple emojis.
Apple

[h/t CNN]

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