Wicab Inc. Company Profile

Wicab, Inc. was founded in 1998 by the late Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita to advance the research and development of sensory substitution devices based on proprietary technology enabling the display of information on the tongue using electro tactile stimulation. The BrainPort vision device provides information to blind individuals via a neuro-stimulating array placed on the tongue. This unique device provides immediate benefits to its blind users in areas of safety, mobility, and recreation and opens a new world of sensory experience and exploration.  

The BrainPort vision device operates by acquiring an image stream from a video camera.  Like a camcorder, the moving images are sent to a display, which, in this case, is the electrode array on the tongue.  The image stream is displayed on the tongue by converting light information to electrical stimulation, which feels like tiny bubbles to the user.  With minimal training, users learn to interpret the images on their tongue as information about the scene in front of them.

The BrainPort vision device is covered by patents held by Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation ("WARF") and exclusively licensed to Wicab.  The tongue is a uniquely qualified target for electrical impulses because of 1) the density and sensitivity of nerve fibers at this site, 2) the suitability of the tongue's chemical environment to receive and maintain contact and 3) the rapid transfer of information from the tongue to the brain.

Wicab is headed by CEO Robert Beckman, formerly CFO at Lunar Corporation, a pioneering company in bone densitometry devices acquired by GE Medical, and Bone Care International, a startup pharmaceutical company that developed a vitamin D analogue for treatment of dialysis patients, later acquired by Genzyme Corp.