("tastes like victory")
By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish.
A narrow strip of red plastic connects the Brain Port to the tongue where 144 microelectrodes transmit information through nerve fibers to the brain. Instead of holding and looking at compasses and bluky-hand-held sonar devices, the divers can processes the information through their tongues, said Dr. Anil Raj, the project's lead scientist.
In testing, blind people found doorways, noticed people walking in front of them and caught balls. A version of the device, expected to be commercially marketed soon, has restored balance to those whose vestibular systems in the inner ear were destroyed by antibiotics.
Michael Zinszer, a veteran Navy diver and director of Florida State University's Underwater Crime Scene Investigation School, took part in testing using the tongue to transmit an electronic compass and an electronic depth sensor while in a swimming pool. He likened the feeling on his tongue to Pop Rocks candies. "You are feeling the outline of this image," he said. "I was in the pool, they were directing me to a very small object and I was able to locate everything very easily."