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Volume 35 Number 4, October 1998
Pages 427-430

Form perception with a 49-point electrotactile stimulus array on the tongue: A technical note

Paul Bach-y-Rita, MD; Kurt A. Kaczmarek, PhD; Mitchell E. Tyler, MS; Jorge Garcia-Lara, DDS

Center for Neuroscience and the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Trace R&D Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 53706; Medical School, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Abstract--Form perception with the tongue was studied with a 49-point electrotactile array. Five sighted adult human subjects (3M/2F) each received 4 blocks of 12 tactile patterns, approximations of circles, squares, and vertex-up equilateral triangles, sized to 4×4, 5×5, 6×6, and 7×7 electrode arrays. Perception with electrical stimulation of the tongue is better than with fingertip electrotactile stimulation, and the tongue requires 3% (5-15 V) of the voltage. The mean current for tongue subjects was 1.612 mA. Tongue shape recognition performance across all sizes was 79.8%. The approximate dimensions of the electrotactile array and the dimensions of compartments built into dental retainers have been determined. The goal is to develop a practical, cosmetically acceptable, wireless system for blind persons, with a miniature TV camera, microelectronics, and FM transmitter built into a pair of glasses, and the electrotactile array in a dental orthodontic retainer.

Key words: blind, electrotactile stimulation, sensory substitution, tongue.

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