Zapping a person's tongue seems like an extreme way to communicate, but a new retainer-like device that generates sensations similar to Champagne bubbles and Pop Rocks may revolutionize what it's like to be hearing impaired.
A team of researchers at Colorado State University designed the prototype: a Bluetooth-enabled earpiece that converts words into electrical impulses on the tongue. After a time, users are able to recognize different impulses as unique words. The sensations have been compared to sparkling wine and that fizzy candy.
Researchers chose the tongue because of its sensitivity. “We’re able to discriminate between fine points that are just a short distance on the tongue. It’s similar in terms of your fingertips; that’s why we use fingers to read Braille," assistant professor Leslie Stone-Roy told Popular Science. The designers are still working on models that will be smaller, more comfortable and virtually undetectable. They may cost around $2,000, which sounds high, but it's only about 4 percent of the cost of typical cochlear implants.