Sensory Substitution Devices

Sensory substitution at a glance

Sensory Substitution Devices (SSDs) capture the information from one sense, translate it into another and then convey it to the user. For example, for an individual who is blind, an SSD can utilize a camera to capture the visual information from the world and systematically translate it into other senses such as sound or tactile cues. This will enable the user to perceive through other senses visual information such as shape, color and location and then use it to perform tasks such as identifying people and objects, reaching for objects, navigating etc.

Since the formalization of this field in the 1970's by Prof Bach-y-Rita several SSDs widely different SSDs have been developed, including devices whose output is an electrical stimulation of the tongue, but most SSDs utilize auditory cues.One of the big advantages of SSDs are that they are non-invasive and often do not even require special hardware beyond a smartphone and earphones.On the research front these devices have enabled a better understanding about the interactions between the different senses and between their underlying mechanisms and the neural basis of visual restoration.

Some links for more information

  1. The vOICe: Seeing with sound
  2. The Amedi team's website
  3. The Brainport: Seeing with your tongue


Left: An illustration of visual-to-auditory and visual-to-tactile SSD
Middle: A user utilizing the EyeMusic SSD for recognizing and taking a red apple from among green ones
Right: Some results collected using SSDs demonstrating that various "visual" areas can be activated using other senses

Please note that the information provided on this website is intended as a guide only, and should not replace treatment and advice from your medical or eye care practitioner. If you have any questions regarding your eye condition or potential interventions, please speak to your health care practitioner.

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Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email [email protected].

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