As a person suffering from a disease which often causes blindness, I am particularly keen on the sensory-replacement science that we are dipping our toes into.
Here is the message:
PoNS UPDATE, January, 2018. Information on availability of the PoNS will now be through the manufacturer of the device, Helius Medical Technologies. In brief, some good news is that the final patients in the studies required for FDA approval finished their treatment in May and July 2017. The two studies which are the necessary prerequisites for FDA approval have now been completed, and a final package with the results, is currently being prepared by Helius for FDA submission. But the PoNS can not be made available to the public until FDA approval comes through. The latest guestitimate we have heard is that it could take until the end of 2018 for the FDA to release its decision. This may seem confusing, because the PoNS was available to patients who were in the well-known studies (for instance, the U.S. Military study of its use for treating traumatic brain injury and the Montreal Neurological Institute study for use for Multiple Sclerosis patients). But now that the studies are complete, the PoNS cannot be available to anyone until approved by the FDA. We know this is frustrating for those hoping to get access to a PoNS, and who had hoped it would be available by now, but this pace is not unusual in approval of new cutting-edge devices. Other news is that there is a migration of PoNS development activity to Helius. Because the PoNS studies have been completed, the Tactile Communication and Neurorehabilitation Lab that opened in 1992 and developed the PoNS and many other inventions, has been closed and the three scientists who invented the PoNS, Yuri Danilov, PhD, Kurt Kaczmarek, PhD and Mitch Tyler PhD, are now consulting for Helius on how to refine it. The TCNL lab website still has 50 research papers related to the PoNS posted on it, here.
That said, if you use a tool for long enough it seems to gain a sense of touch. Your brain is just interpreting what you feel in your hands, but from the brain's perspective it's just signals either way and the shortcut is useful.
The most interesting thing would be if their eyes stopped being integrated for a while. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0
"One-hundred common English words were selectedfor the present study (see Table 1; the 8 groups are explained later in Sec. Error! Reference source not found.)"
I assume that the belief is that it's more easier to reliably encode speech to phonemes in real time than it is to encode it to text.