Sensory Substitution Systems for Blind Mobility
Award last edited on: 10/8/07

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Solicitation Topic Code

Principal Investigator
Kathi L Kamm

Company Information

Wicab Inc

8476 Greenway Boulevard Suite 200
Middleton, WI 53562
   (608) 829-4500
Location: Multiple
Congr. District: 02
County: Dane

Phase I

Contract Number: 1R43EY013487-01
Start Date: 00/00/00    Completed: 00/00/00
Phase I year
Phase I Amount
This is a phase SBIR application to test the functionality of a electrotactile tongue stimulation system designed to be used as a substitute for vision by blind children. The device maps processed video signals into an array of electrodes that stimulate the tongue. The electrode array can be built into an orthodontic dental retainer or a pacifier, in the case of infants. Phase 1 is designed to validate the approach of tongue stimulation by evaluating the Outcome of training children to learn to "see" with a prototype device.

Phase II

Contract Number: 2R44EY013487-02
Start Date: 00/00/00    Completed: 00/00/00
Phase II year
(last award dollars: 2004)
Phase II Amount

The objective of this project is to develop a practical, cosmetically acceptable substitute for visual information that will improve the spatial cognition and overall functional abilities of blind individuals across the life span. Phase 1 showed that the tongue-based system exceeded expectations. Specifically, two of the children began to spontaneously report perception of gray scale. This capability makes it possible to consider use of the system beyond the relatively static and high-contrast training environment to use of a mobile/wearable system in natural environments. Thus the system could be of great value for enhancing function in the crucial area of Orientation and Mobility (O&M). This Phase II proposal is to build the portable TVSS and continue development and testing on two fronts. We will extend the work to adults while expanding upon the work already done with children. The primary emphasis for this phase will be on examining the utility of the TVSS for O&M training. Specific Aims include: (1)- to develop and test a portable TVSS for spatial orientation and mobility with blind adults and children. The device will be improved to allow full mobility: a small TV camera will be mounted on the edge of a pair of glasses or in a hat. All of the electronics in a cigarette-pack size box to be worn on the waist or built into a hat. The in-mouth retainer will include the electrotactile 160-point array. A thin flexible cable will link the two. A second instrumentation option will be explored: a microbolometer will be mounted on the hat to explore the feasibility of using a long-wave infra-red image capture instead of a video camera. (2)- to evaluate use and utility of the system in 3 discreet skill areas: a) Orient and walk to a pole or walk signal 24-30 feet without veering, b) Shore-line buildings and identify open doors, c) Shoreline a curved sidewalk and identify intersecting sidewalks. (3)- to explore and examine the potential use of TVSS in two skill areas that pose particular difficulty for blind individuals: a) finding an open seat on a bus or in a hall. b) orienting in open spaces where shoreline cues are not present. (4)- to determine the operational characteristics of the pre-product prototype and to begin commercialization efforts. (5)- to prepare reports for publication and dissemination.

Thesaurus Terms:
adolescence (12-20), assistive device /technology, biomedical equipment development, blindness, electrotactile communication, substitute sight, tongue blind aid, electrode, orthodontics, touch clinical research, human subject