In Star Trek The Next Generation Geordi La Forge was born blind and hence was given a special device called a VISOR that "converts a wide spectrum of subspace frequencies into neural impulses" so he can see. But every so often Geordi will speak of how frustrated he is that he can't see a sunset or other things the way regularly sighted people do, so why did the people who invented his VISOR not simply give it the ability to see visible light OR give him a visor that has the option to switch to visible light mode? We humans need to see visible light on a day to day basis but we don't need to see subspace with our eyes in order to live normally!

  • He can see visible light, the sunrise just looks different to him because he sees so much more. May 24, 2013 at 17:23
  • Technically it only scanned the EM spectrum, not subspace.
    – Xantec
    May 24, 2013 at 17:36
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    The answer is Microsoft. They've written the firmware for VISOR, and as always they're very poor at design. Otherwise, a simple software adjustment could put him in visible-EM mode for sunsets, and back to superhuman-vision for away missions. They're promising to get an updated version out to him in the next 24 months or so, but it will be subscription only at $119.95/month.
    – John O
    May 24, 2013 at 18:36
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    Clearly it was designed by engineers. "Wouldn't it be cool if it also did ...."
    – BBlake
    May 24, 2013 at 20:49
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    @RichS I was providing a layman's example; neutrinos themselves would probably have been detected as a dark space in Geordi's vision as lack of EM radiation. But based on how the beam was shown on the show it would make more sense he was seeing gamma rays ejected from anti-neutrino annihilation. However, gamma rays would have been well beyond his detection threshold. All in all, the VISOR's capabilities as described don't make a whole lot of technical sense which aligns nicely with Star Trek's motto of "We Hate Continuity".
    – Xantec
    Mar 23, 2017 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


Your description of the VISOR technology is incorrect. He does not see into subspace, but his range of electromagnetic awareness lets him see signals far beyond human sight.

Referenced from Memory Alpha we are told:

The VISOR, acronym for Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement, was a medical device used in the Federation to aid patients who had suffered loss of eyesight or who were born blind. The VISOR detected electromagnetic signals across the entire EM spectrum between 1 Hz and 100,000 THz and transmitted those signals to the brain through neural implants in the temples of the individual via delta-compressed wavelengths. (TNG: "The Masterpiece Society") The result was a vastly different visual acuity, with VISOR-wearers able to see in the infrared and ultraviolet ranges and beyond. To normal Human eyes, the images relayed through the VISOR could seem disorienting and unfamiliar. (TNG: "Heart of Glory", "The Enemy", "The Mind's Eye")

The VISOR is perfectly capable of seeing in the normal visual range, but the interpretation of the signal is different than how the normal visual cortex processes the image. Since LaForge was born blind, his visual cortex was not available to process the images. So images are interpreted by his brain differently so visual images seen by normal human through his VISOR are disorienting.

His vision is not just as good as yours or mine, it is superior in its range and processing but he does not see it "naturally" and I believe this is what he is talking about when he complains about his vision. His range of visual acuity is mind boggling when you see exactly how wide his range of visual awareness is. Acuity in the terahertz radiation range gives him the ability to see through materials or an awareness or their atomic structures. Note the tiny range of visible light in the diagram below.

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    Because it's better than normal vision. May 25, 2013 at 15:34
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    @HappyBirthdayRoboto: Why not? Why make a replacement heart better then the original one? Why make an EMH better then a real doctor? Why make a sword sharper then your own hand? First, because we can, second, because it is better. Geordi mentioned multiple times that he did see things others don't (Generations, he clearly sees the hidden door, I remember one episode were he sees fractures in a (?)generator and so on).
    – Bobby
    May 25, 2013 at 17:20
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    I did answer it. He does not have a visual cortex to send images to, he is forced to use other aspects of his brain's processing capacity augmented by technology to see AT ALL. He was born blind. If it were an issue of his eyes not functioning, they could have simply grown him NEW EYES. This is an aspect of his brain's inability to process visual data as well. Hence the reason he does not see the way you and I do. May 25, 2013 at 18:52
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    I always figured that, having been born blind, he never really knew what the sunset was supposed to look like. I would imagine that, with that wide range of vision, sunsets just look boring because they're a very narrow spectrum of light that isn't doing anything special. They're just exciting to us because we see so little.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 9, 2014 at 12:28
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    If Geordi has no visual cortex [to send images to], explain The Mind's Eye, in which "La Forge is fed several horrific images directly into his visual cortex". Jul 24, 2015 at 10:40

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