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Input Devices Science

Hacking Our Five Senses 232

Posted by Zonk
from the still-waiting-for-a-eyeball-based-hud-thanks dept.
zdude255 writes "Wired is running an article exploring several studies of giving the human brain 'new input devices.' From seeing with your sense of touch to entirely new senses such as sensing direction intuitively, the human brain seems to be capable of interpreting and using new data on the fly. This offers many applications from pilots being able to sense the plane's orientation to the potential recovery of patients with blindness or ear damage. (which helps balance).'It turns out that the tricky bit isn't the sensing. The world is full of gadgets that detect things humans cannot. The hard part is processing the input. Neuroscientists don't know enough about how the brain interprets data. The science of plugging things directly into the brain -- artificial retinas or cochlear implants -- remains primitive. So here's the solution: Figure out how to change the sensory data you want -- the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared -- into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight.'"
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Hacking Our Five Senses

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  • by willie_nelsons_pigta (1006979) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @11:55AM (#18588967)
    I am not so sure I would want other parts of my body seeing. A finger in my nose may not be the most pleasant thing to look at.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by goombah99 (560566)
      You think that's bad, wait till they start messing with the output devices. But don't worry the finger in the nose. it's suppose to go there (thats why it fits) and thus your nose was rewired too be the download port for your finger camera. it's only 100MBs/sec though so if you have a lot of images you need to use the firewire port located in the rear.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Wrong. Firewire isn't in the rear. The rear is a grounded power outlet, as demonstrated by the one 'Bender'.

        Down front? Yeah, that's the stylus. It improves productivity by enticing at least 50% of the workforce to use it often and requires no additional training. The developers thought of outfitting it with a laser, but were afraid of it blinding attendants during so-called money shots.
      • Would you like the large dump or the small dump? Where do you want to save it?
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:21PM (#18589375) Journal
      It's not so much that...One of the one's I found most interesting in the series was a kind of belt device that vibrated constantly on the side that faced magnetic north...Like having a dozen cellphones strapped to your belt, where whichever one is on the north side of your body vibrates.

      A guy wore it for a year, iirc, and his body adapted to the new "sense" to such a degree that he had a little freak out break down when he removed it, and now walks around with a handheld gps all the time, to try and make up for the "sense" of direction he lost. He says he developed a kind of spacial sense, which gave him a firm sense of spacial orientation...he stopped getting lost...and just sort of knew little directional tidbits like "my house is in that direction" etc.

      One of the most interesting things about the articles, is the thread that all our senses are capable of processing more data than we give them credit for...Another article talked about a limited visual sense that interfaced through the tongue, and worked almost without any training at all.

      It's some cool stuff, and it definitely opens up some possibility for some interesting sensory "prosthesis" to give information that isn't processed by our natural senses.
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:56PM (#18589913) Homepage
        It's not new in any way. Prof. Steve Mann from the U of Toronto has been a "cyborg" for over 10 years now. His research into wearable computing has gone way past what these guys are talking about. not log ago he removed his gear and had a complete breakdown. Not having hid database and other sensory enhancements he had built in and became reliant on has a big drawback from what he discovered in his research.

        Your body adapts fast to new supplimentary input (Nicotene for example) and does not want to give it up after it has gone.

        I strongly reading his research papers for anyne interested in this technology and subject.
        • by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc&carpanet,net> on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @01:54PM (#18590815) Homepage
          I found this interesting in a recent show I saw called "Addiction"

          They did FMRI scans of people in various situations, some addicts, some not.

          What they showed was actual differences in their brain activity in various centers... changes that happened slowly over time. Use the drug over and over, and your brain adapts to that input, it changes in response to it.

          Of course this is assumed to be an unequivicolly bad thing, though, I am not sure we really can put a value judgement on it... its one of those "it is what it is" things, we still don't know quite what to make of it... its still very very high level.

          Of course, we should expect this with all things. I was born epileptic. I spent the first half of my life (up to this point) on anti-seizure drugs like tegratol. Look at what tegratol does, imagine a brain being exposed to it on a daily basis during its most formative years.... wow.

          There has been only very very limited study into the area. I found a few articles in some recent searches on the subject. Some evidence that kids who grow up on these meds have lower incidence of marriage, lower overall achievement, etc. Overall, from my interactions with others, I have come to realise... my brain works differently in ways that actually makes it really hard to relate to alot of people in some ways.

          How much of that is genetics? how much of that is upbringing? How much of that is changes made over years by exposure to brain fucntion altering drugs? How much of my formative experiences were colored or directly influenced?

          Don't get me wrong... I am not trying to make a value judgement here, or say "hey look, they broke me" just that, more fascination with how the brain works and how changeable it really is. I would love to have such a "space belt". I wonder wat FMRIs of people who wore one for a year or two would differ from others.

          This stuff just fascinates me.

          -Steve
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by metlin (258108) *
          Or Thad Starner [gatech.edu].

          I went to GT, and even took a class of his. You could always see him walking around with all kinds of things attached to him. Some of his PhD students are the same way, too. Although, the continuous clicking and buzzing does get to you after a while.

          Both Starner and Mann have done some very pioneering work in this area.

          Although, to be fair, Mann has done significantly more and has been at this a lot longer. IIRC, he was once stopped at an American airport for carrying this stuff. They refuse
      • by oringo (848629)
        I can't believe the amount of interest given to this guy's "science" project. That kind of device and the intuition developed through it had been invented by ancient Chinese 2000 years ago. It's called "compass"!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lhand (30548)
          My first thought too.

          It seems, though, that they are looking for interfaces that bypass the cogintive functions and feed data directly to what we'd call feeling. Where a compass will only show you which way is north if you look at and find where the needle is pointing, the belt gives a constant throb in the nortern direction that does not require conscious thought.

          There was a story a while back about people getting magnets (those super-strong rare earth ones) embedded under their finger tips. It gave them a
      • by nbritton (823086)

        He says he developed a kind of spacial sense, which gave him a firm sense of spacial orientation...he stopped getting lost...
        Sounds like it would have beneficial military applications, is it patented?
      • by 2short (466733)

        I've noticed that since I moved to the Denver area, I almost never get lost. You never *think* about the fact that there are these great big mountains constantly visible to the west. But I get this spooky feeling if I go somewhere I haven't been before on a rare low-visibility day. Your brain just accepts that you should always know which you're facing, and be able to roughly triangulate off a couple notable peaks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        There is a very interesting little book about this sort of thing called "The Tacit Dimension" written by Polanyi, a philosopher interested in epistemology.
      • by Gilmoure (18428)
        Hell, I can do that. It's how I got around D.C. and Rome, never having been there before. Didn't know roads to take but knew the direction I wanted to get to.

        There was some study a few years ago, that found out people have a small portion of their brain that is sensitive to magnetic fields, similar to what they found in homing pigeons.
    • The human brain (Score:5, Informative)

      by vivin (671928) <vivin.paliath@gmaiLIONl.com minus cat> on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:23PM (#18589399) Homepage Journal
      The human brain is pretty plastic. It can adapt to a lot of new conditions. In patients who are recently blind, or even in people who have been blindfolded for a while, the sense of touch and sound is amplified. Areas of the brain that were used for vision, are now used to interpret sound and touch. PET shows which parts of the brain are active. Check out Phantoms in the Brain [amazon.com] and . [amazon.com]
      • by suffe (72090)
        And as we've all learned from Dr House, you can even get by on half a brain. It will take up the functions of the other part. I'm sure there is a Bush joke in there as well, but I'll refrain.
    • Every measurement device known to man essentially works this way. It measures x and makes it available to the senses.
      Metal detector: detects metals and makes sound that you can hear.
      Volt meter/oscilloscope: Measures voltage and makes it available to the brain via eyes.
      Clock: Measures time and presents it to the eyes or ears...
  • Related (Score:4, Interesting)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:00PM (#18589039) Journal
    "Sense-hacking" seems like a very fun, interesting pursuit. I recently learned that humans can be trained to echolocate. Wiki article [wikipedia.org]. That looks like a historical example of what they're trying to do -- get the hearing inputs tuned so that you can "sense" the location of nearby objects because your brain transforms that echo into location data.
    • Re:Related (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MyDixieWrecked (548719) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:29PM (#18589475) Homepage Journal
      That reminds me of an article I submitted to slashdot a few years back. A guy had implanted magnets in his fingertips and he could use that to sense other magnets and metallic objects. He said that he was surprised when he was able to detect where the motor was inside an electric can-opener just by putting his fingers close to it.

      It seemed like a really interesting concept. Similar to how your sense of direction works by using magnetic north.

      This also reminds me of an element of this book I just read (Rant by Chuck Palahniuk). In the future, people have ports that enable them to plug in and experience a recorded neural episode. In the story, you could get a large-breasted girl high on heroin and sit her in a train watching the scenery go by, the whole time playing with herself and output that to a new recording that you could rent and experience yourself without the dangers of actually doing heroin.

      It was quite an amazing concept.
      • I haven't read the book, but it seems like if you were to play back a "recording" of someone ingesting a psychoactive drug, and the recording was being piped directly into your brain in such a way that it was perceived as real, wouldn't that be just as physiologically addictive as the actual drug?

        I mean, heroin works because it causes certain chemicals inside the brain to change. If you don't release those chemicals, it's not going to feel the same. So a completely honest recording of a heroin trip would necessarily have to produce the same physiological response in your synapses as the real thing.

        I suspect, that if such a technology were available, that "recordings" of people doing drugs would quickly become just as illicit as the drugs themselves, because they'd be just as addictive. (Although, it's not as though the drug laws in the U.S. have ever had any real correlation to harm, so it might matter more who was making money by selling said recordings and how many Senators they owned.) There are quite a few novels that I've read where the idea of addictive neuro-stimulus was discussed; off the top of my head I think it comes up in Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and the Otherland series by Tad Williams.
        • There are quite a few novels that I've read where the idea of addictive neuro-stimulus was discussed; off the top of my head I think it comes up in Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and the Otherland series by Tad Williams.
          It's big in the Ringworld series as well. IIRC, in the second book Louis Wu is a current addict - they called it wirehead or something. In that case it's nothing more complicated than a trickle current applied to the pleasure center in the brain.
        • well, the idea in the book was that you plug in and you experience all 5 senses that the person experienced in the same way. There were methods that people used by re-recording the output of someone experiencing another recording, like recording someone eating a cheeseburger, then have someone who hasn't eaten in a week experience that recording and re-output it, thereby making the cheeseburger so much more enjoyable.

          The book goes for pages and pages explaining the process. I believe there's an entire chapt
        • I should point out that heroin doesn't merely cause chemicals in your brain to change. Heroin replaces certain chemicals in your brain, stimulating mu-opioid receptors. That causes the number of mu-opioid receptors in the brain to increase, and I believe it also decreases production of natural opioids. Hallucinogenic/psychadelic drugs aren't generally addictive, so that likely wouldn't be a problem with stored trips either.
        • I mean, heroin works because it causes certain chemicals inside the brain to change. If you don't release those chemicals, it's not going to feel the same. So a completely honest recording of a heroin trip would necessarily have to produce the same physiological response in your synapses as the real thing.

          Why not just record the memories of a someone going through 5 year rehab and then upload them after the experience? Problem solved.

          Or better yet, just turn off the ability for your brain to desire for sens
      • by i.r.id10t (595143)
        Strange, I've got what I consider a good sense of direction, but when I go somewhere new (say, Minnesota for thanksgiving with the family), I get *very* disoriented as to direction until I see the sun. Once that is done, I got my orientation back. Sucks to go North and have it be very overcast/nasty/grey for a few days non-stop....
        • by Gilmoure (18428)
          Central New Mexico screws me up. North just feels like south. Only place in the US that's hit me like that (driven all over the country; Key West to Maine, Seattle down to Arizona and across midwest several times). Even though there's the mountains to get a visual bearing off of, still feels wonky here and I've lived her for several years now. If I go up towards Taos area, no problem.
      • That reminds me of an article I submitted to slashdot a few years back. A guy had implanted magnets in his fingertips and he could use that to sense other magnets and metallic objects. He said that he was surprised when he was able to detect where the motor was inside an electric can-opener just by putting his fingers close to it.

        I don't have the link immediately available, but that story ended badly. His body ended up rejecting the magnet implants and they ended up breaking up in his fingers, the pictures

        • Ouch.

          While that sucks for him, I don't think it totally invalidates the experiment's results though, just perhaps part of the methodology. There are definitely substances that the human body doesn't seem to reject (titanium, some ceramics, some types of stainless steel, some plastics, etc.) and are already used in medical applications. Perhaps if the magnets had been coated in something nonferrous but inert, the rejection wouldn't have happened. (Maybe ceramic capsules?)

          I also wonder if you could do somethi
          • by CorSci81 (1007499)
            Alternatively, why not just make a glove that vibrates in the presence of magnetic fields? This could actually be a really cool use of magnetorestrictive materials, and you get to avoid the complications of having a physical implant (MRIs, rotting fingers, etc).
  • mmmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by spooje (582773) <spooje@noSPam.hotmail.com> on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:01PM (#18589067) Homepage
    So what does blue taste like?
  • See taste (Score:5, Interesting)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:02PM (#18589083) Homepage Journal
    There was a short blurb in Science News a couple months back about how an electrode array when placed on the tongue gave the participants a sense of sight. The electrode used the tongue to send impulses similar enough to visual signals for volunteers to discern a 3x3 matrix of on/off dots. Pretty cool stuff, though I'd pay dearly for infravision and/or ultrasound augmentation.
    -nB
    • by corbettw (214229)
      I think I saw that same article. They mentioned one of the possible uses was with SEALs: the device could operate along with scuba gear to give the SEAL a kind of heads-up display underwater, allowing them to navigate more easily at night or in murky conditions.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:04PM (#18589103)
    There was an experiment where people wore goggles that made everything upside-down and reversed left-to-right. After about 6 weeks (IIRC) wearing them, suddenly the test subjects woke up one morning and could see everything normally. When the goggles were then removed, they saw everything upside-down and reversed for another 6 weeks. So changing the brains sensory processing is definitely possible.
    • Why yes! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Any Web Loco (555458)
      I believe they even mention this study in TFA!
      • You got me. I read the first two thirds of the first page, posted, then continued reading, and said "OOOPS!".
    • by Altus (1034)

      If I recall correctly, it turned out that it took longer for the brain to switch back than it did to switch over in the first place.
    • I cannot find a good web link, but I clearly recall reading about experiments conducted over 25 years ago (I think I read about it in Science magazine as a teen) where scientists severed the optic nerves of rats, near the location where the two nerve bundles cross just before entering the opposite sides of the brain. They then reconnected the nerves to the wrong eyes. After initially healing from the surgery, the rats were confused for a while, then fairly quickly adapted and within a short period of time (
  • With integrated GPS we would always know where we are and where to go. We could use an AI integrated with our accumulated knowledge to be that "voice in our head" with all of the right answers. We could use our own wifi to be an ad hoc network to communicate, plan and execute with unity. We can't stop here, this is B0rg country.
  • Not very new... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LBArrettAnderson (655246) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:06PM (#18589135)
    So here's the solution: Figure out how to change the sensory data you want -- the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared -- into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight.

    That's something that's been done for a long time... a radio transfers radio waves into something that we can hear. A clock transfers the current time to something we can see. A compass also shows us direction in a way that we can see. That's what instruments do. This would be better news if it talked about how the scientists are putting it directly into our brains, as opposed to how that's NOT what they're doing; they've been doing this stuff for many thousands of years already.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rob T Firefly (844560)
      Agreed. The only novelty about the methods in TFA seems to be that they are translating data to tactile rather than visual information, but when it all comes down to it this doesn't seem much more "hacking the five senses" than a pocket compass translating physical orientation into visual data.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 2short (466733)
        I disagree. Being constantly, sub-conciously aware of what direction you're facing is different in interesting ways from having a compass in your pocket you can check when you think of it.

        I've lived in and learned my way around several metropolitan areas. I acquired a far better geographic understanding, far faster, in the Denver area than any of the others. I think this is because anywhere in the Denver area, whether you are thinking about it or not, you are aware of your position relative to the same l
        • Good point. Still, in these cases, the novelty lies in the constant, subconscious stimuli rather than any "hacking of the senses." Maybe "hacking of the subconscious" would be a beter title.

          Perhaps instead of a pocket compass, a better comparison would be a compass on your car's dashboard during a long drive. Although you're not looking at it the whole time, you can be subconsciously aware of the data it presents just as you can sort of know when you're low on gas without deliberately checking the gauge
    • The article does - kind of. Unfortuately, it doesn't go far past vibrating pads and tongue-arrays. (And yes, the world-flipping goggles.) However, those technologies haven't been around too long. AFAIK, people weren't doing those kinds of experiments before the sixties.

      I suppose the difference between the stuff the article talks about and your "radio" example is in the personalization - there's a difference between a radio in the room and a radio only you can hear.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stonecypher (118140)
      What these scientists are doing isn't providing a filter before the biological input device. They're creating new input devices that can use the biological input devices' connection points. As you'll note, if you rfta, the scientists are in fact talking about their apparent inability to junction directly to the brain, due to not knowing how the brain speaks.

      Yes, we're aware that when the article talks about things we've done in the past, that they're not new. Please don't complain about the last few sent
  • YAY for Ghost in the Shell [wikipedia.org]! YAY for anime! You too will soon be able to join our prosthetic body overlords by switching out your real body for a comedic little Jameson type
  • So when do we get our brain-to-internet linkup and form the noosphere?
  • wired (Score:2, Interesting)

    by symes (835608)
    While the idea of boosting our sensory abilities is appealing I'm not sure that it is something that I would like to play with. The brain is malleable and can rewire itself as it learns ( plasticity [wikipedia.org]). This happens most obviously when we learn... and a great example is that the a London taxi driver's hippocampus [wikipedia.org] is significantly larger than non-taxi-driving controls. The hippocampus helps process spatial information, hence the increased size in taxi drivers.

    But these changes through experience are fairly

  • Eek (Score:3, Funny)

    by goldaryn (834427) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:14PM (#18589267) Homepage
    "Wired is running an article exploring several studies of giving the human brain 'new input devices.'

    Get ready for plug-and-pray, mark 2..
  • Lecture on Feelspace (Score:3, Informative)

    by teslar (706653) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:18PM (#18589313)
    One of the things mentioned in TFA is König's feelSpace belt, a belt which gives you information about which direction North is. A lecture he gave about it at the Neuro IT summer school in 2005 is actually available here [neuro-it.net]. It's from two years ago, granted, but still reasonably interesting.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:19PM (#18589333) Homepage
    I don't see how this is fundamentally different from a 1950's family physician looking a fluoroscope and "seeing" with X-rays. Or, for that matter, an ordinary set of car rear-view and side mirrors, which give us "eyes in the back of our heads." Or a neurophysiologist connecting his electrodes to an amplifier and speaker, as well as watching an oscilloscope trace.

    This sort of sensory augmentation is hardly a new idea.

    The thing I want to know is: is there any way to increase the bandwidth with which the brain can process incoming information? I seriously doubt it.

    It seems to be increasingly evident that a cell phone that makes no use of ones' hands nevertheless consumes attention that would otherwise be allocated to driving, and I suspect this is true of every other input modality.

    Attentionis a limited resource. You might as well present the information on an ordinary viewing screen that occupies part of the field of view. However you present it, you can't add more information without blocking your "view" of information you'd otherwise be processing.

    • Right, cause I know I have a hard time interpreting both color and depth with my eyes. C'mon, you really think my brain couldn't handle infrared as well?

      We do this kind of thing every day, but we take it for granted because we have always done it. You watch TV, listen to the news, and make sure your kid isn't choking on his Cheerios all at the same time. You use transparency on your PC to watch two windows at once. I can tell you what was on NPR last night, and I'm pretty sure I didn't run over any lit

    • by Kadin2048 (468275)
      I don't see how this is fundamentally different from a 1950's family physician looking a fluoroscope and "seeing" with X-rays. Or, for that matter, an ordinary set of car rear-view and side mirrors, which give us "eyes in the back of our heads." Or a neurophysiologist connecting his electrodes to an amplifier and speaker, as well as watching an oscilloscope trace.

      Definitely agreed. For that matter, it's the same sort of plasticity that allows someone who looks at (film) negatives for long enough, to be able
    • Attentionis a limited resource.

      I'm not sure I entirely agree. As has already been noted above, the brain is highly adaptable. Remember when you were learning how to drive? It took all of your concentration just to keep the car moving straight down the road. Later, you learned to keep your speed within 5mph (kph, if you prefer) while keeping the car going straight down the road. Then, you started playing music in the car, talking to passengers, using the cell phone, etc. I suspect the reason is becau

  • Just plug it in (Score:3, Informative)

    by blamanj (253811) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:20PM (#18589349)
    Recent experiments that have given mice new color-sensing ability [scienceblogs.com] seems to imply that if you can just get the input into the brain, the brain will try and incorporate it. Obviously, this works best when the brain is still "plastic", when the organism is young. I wonder if you wired an infrared camera (or similar) to a newborn that by the time they were a couple of years old, they'd be making full use of the additional information.

    Unlike the Neuromancer fantasy, you can't just jack in, but if implanted early enough, you could adapt to the additional sensory input.
    • by dpilot (134227)
      Google "four color vision" for more. One aspect is that the mutation which makes men color-blind gives women 4-color vision, because it's really a bandwidth shift in one color of cone receptors. For men it means the receptors aren't spaced properly for color vision, but for women it gives finer color discrimination. Google even has a link to Slashdot on this one. But from TFA, the surprise was the the brain simply learned to use the extra sensory information.
    • by nasch (598556)

      Unlike the Neuromancer fantasy, you can't just jack in, but if implanted early enough, you could adapt to the additional sensory input.

      According to TFA, you can indeed just jack in. It was about external devices rather than surgical implants, but that doesn't change the fundamental mechanism. Adults can start using these and incorporate the additional sensory information, in some cases almost immediately, because adult brains are still plastic, just not as much as child brains. I'm not expecting much con

  • by alexhs (877055) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @12:20PM (#18589359) Homepage Journal
    First, this is not exactly new. For example, I've read years ago about an equipment with a camera and a dot-matrix that could be put on the finger of a blind person, so that person could see in a low-resolution.

    What's interesting is that it can also apply to add sense we might not have in the first place.

    Now the writer doesn't understand much about senses :(
    There are more than five, and he even cites internal ear. The balance sense is a full sense, while proprioception is a mix of senses : mainly balance sense, touch (wind orientation changing, heat from the sun), vision (even eyes closed you might be able to see a little light from the sun), sources of sound rotating...

    Also, other classic senses are also mixes :

    Touch is composed from (at least) pression sensing, heat sensing.
    Taste is all what composes touch (feeling of the texture of what you eat, heat) plus tongue receptors,
    plus flavours receptors, closely related to smell.

    Pain is a separated sense, it's a stress from cell that then emit strong signals in nerves and can originate from internal organs.
    • Now the writer doesn't understand much about senses :(
      There are more than five, and he even cites internal ear.

      The way I've always thought of it was that there were far more than five senses -- many of which fell under the "exteroceptive" senses:

      • visual (sight)
      • tactile (touch / pressure)
      • auditory (sound / vibration)
      • smell
      • taste
      • balance (the inner ear)
      • heat

      all of which report about things outside one's body. There are also "forgotten" internal (introceptive) senses:

      • kinesthetic: the ability to know the
  • I'll bet you will be able to get a sweet discount on those new hyper-range ears.

    You just need to sign up for a two year contract. But it will be .45/min if you go over your listening plan, and you don't even want to think about the roaming charges for hearing stuff you shouldn't.

    Can you hear me now?

  • I'm surprised the Wired article didn't reference the earlier Wired story on the guy who implanted magnets in his fingertips and could "feel" magnetism (see this Slashdot story [slashdot.org]).
  • for those of us who spend a lot of time rewiring our houses or playing with high-voltage and high-current devices. Coz boy howdy is it exciting when you clip a line for which you think you've turned off the breaker, and kerblammo. Takes a good-sized chunk out of wireclippers before the correct breaker trips.

    I tried tagging the story /dev/brain but the tagging system doesn't like punctuation, apparently.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by maxwell demon (590494)
      You already can see electric fields. Provided they oscillate at 400 to 750 THz.
  • My senses go to eleven.
  • Here is a device that allows the blind to "see" by imprinting images onto the tongue:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKd56D2mvN0 [youtube.com]

    Kinda neat. Extremely low-resolution. I probably first found that link on Slashdot, for all I know....

  • by rewinn (647614) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @01:07PM (#18590083) Homepage
    When I got married, my sense of hearing adapted to enhance my sense of color ("You're going to wear that?"), smell ("The garbage needs taking out") and self-preservation ("Does this make me look fat?")
  • by raddan (519638)

    Figure out how to change the sensory data you want -- the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared -- into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight.

    Oh, wait, you mean, like with a screen, keyboard, and mouse? Not to belittle future improvements to the man-machine interface, but there's a reason why the video display/keyboard/mouse combination has been around so long: it works well with a minimum amount of training. That's not to say that using other senses won't enhance our computing experience (the belt mentioned in TFA is pretty cool), but I think KVM is a very flexible way of accomplishing this already.

    • by Barny (103770)
      You missed it all, the whole point is that they are studying how the brain reacts to these changed inputs, and how they can maybe use that to make the whole thing more integrated (plugs in the back of the head thing).

      And if you think using a keyboard/mouse/monitor requires a "minimum amount of training" you have never tried to get someone who thinks the mouse looks like a foot pedal, who weilds a white out pen to fix the mistakes on the screen...
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @01:12PM (#18590145) Homepage Journal
    Would you even know you had it, not being able to describe it to other people?

    It turns out there are other senses, other than the five Aristotelean ones. Proprioception, for one: the awareness of body positioning. People who have proprioceptive disorders because of things like brain damage don't really have convenient and commonly understood language to describe their impairment to other people, other than to say they have brain damage that makes them clumsy.

    But language or not, at least people share the sense of proprioception, so there are shared experiences that could form the basis for communication. But imagine you had some ability most other people didn't have, say the ability to detect electric current or to feel when somebody was observing you. I'm not sure you would necessarily even be aware when the sense was operating, other than feeling a kind of "intuition".
    • by dpilot (134227)
      Years/decades ago I read a science fiction book about a planet where the survivors of the planetary settling had vision and hearing problems. Back in civilization it didn't matter, because we have glasses and hearing aids. That stuff quickly faded on this particular planet, because for some unremembered reason, they were starting pretty much from scratch. They adapted to everyone having poor vision and hearing, and managed to survive.

      The story was about a young girl who had normal sight and vision, and was
    • Can most people detect when they're getting a cold? I always notice, just before the cold symptoms begin, a distinct baseline smell in my nose which does not come from the environment around me--it's always there no matter where I am or what I'm smelling. I also notice a different scent when I experience sunburn, and a different one yet when I have a bacterial infection (major cut, sinuses, etc.)
      • by dissy (172727) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @04:16PM (#18593461)
        Can most people detect when they're getting a cold? I always notice, just before the cold symptoms begin, a distinct baseline smell in my nose which does not come from the environment around me--it's always there no matter where I am or what I'm smelling.

        It's very strange you mention this. I have the same ability, which most people I tell about it claim is 'in my head'.

        The strangest part, in a botched medical procedure when I was 3 years old, I fully lost my sense of smell (Called 'anosmia'.)

        Yet to this day, about 12-18 hrs before I notice the first symptoms of a cold or flu, I too can smell this strange odor and know to associate it with having caught a cold.

        Unfortunatly due to not having a sense of smell, I've never been able to compare the cold catching smell with any other odor, but both due to the fact my smell receptors are physically damaged, and no one else i've mentioned this to knows what i'm talking about (plus you are the first person i've ever heard describe also having it), I tend to think either most people don't have this sense, or if they do it's percieved on such a low level that it's not realized it's even a sense or 'smell' and gets processed in another way by the brain.

    • by inviolet (797804)

      It turns out there are other senses, other than the five Aristotelean ones. Proprioception, for one: the awareness of body positioning. People who have proprioceptive disorders because of things like brain damage don't really have convenient and commonly understood language to describe their impairment to other people, other than to say they have brain damage that makes them clumsy.

      Not to mention our sense of down. The accelerometers in our inner ears give us that sense.

      My brother is a professor, and he

  • From the summary 'So here's the solution: Figure out how to change the sensory data you want -- the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared -- into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight.'

    Last time I checked humans had made instruments to detect and track information of all sorts. In order to turn the things detected into something that could be detect by human senses we invented an interface. They are called displays and take many forms. We even invented
  • "Figure out how to change the sensory data you want -- the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared -- into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight"

    Gotcha. Here's some ways to change new sensory data into something we're already wired to accept:

    Air Pressure: Barometer (Sight)

    Air Pressure: iPod (Sound)

    Altitude: Altimiter (Sight)

    Magnetic Field: Compass (Sight)

    Proximity to solid objects: Radar (Sight, Sound)

    Detection of radiation: Geiger Counter (Si

  • "Five" senses? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @01:49PM (#18590733) Homepage
    Stand up and close your eyes. What's stopping you from falling over? Touch your nose. Wow! You must have ESP or something!
  • "So here's the solution: Figure out how to change the sensory data you want -- the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared -- into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight.'"

    Converting electromagnetic fields to sight? We have that already, it's called a TV!
  • At the beginning of the article, it is said that the guy with the belt which indicates the north knew 100miles from his home where it was: I find this quite strange: to really know where he was he would need to have *two* directions, not only one..
    I wonder if his feeling about where his hometown was, was really so accurate, or if it was just a 'false feeling'.
  • http://www.seeingwithsound.com/ [seeingwithsound.com]

    Check out this project. It lets the vision impaired "see" using a set of headphones, a pc (laptop rig) and web cam (head mounted). Check out some of the video demos.. I was able to quickly pick out the windows and doors on the buildings the user was walking past.

    I am not vision impaired, and I think using this would probably give me a massive headache, but I could get used to it if it was my only option.

When you don't know what to do, walk fast and look worried.

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