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MIT Researchers Create a Cheap "6th Sense" Device 125

Posted by timothy
from the it-will-tickle-your-fancy-if-you-tell-it-to dept.
thefickler writes "MIT researchers have combined a mobile projector with a webcam and mobile phone to create a device that draws information from the environment. For example, the gadget recognizes products on store shelves and can provide product and price comparison information. The sixth-sense device was cobbled together from common parts costing just $300. While the gadget is not being primed for mass release, it represents a forward-thinking way of blending technology with our environment."
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MIT Researchers Create a Cheap "6th Sense" Device

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  • Eyetap... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GenP (686381)
    Needs more EyeTap [wikipedia.org].
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:26PM (#26745791) Homepage

    "For example, the gadget recognizes products on store shelves and can provide product and price comparison information."

    Finally, we've discovered all 6 senses: Sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and targeted marketing! =D

    • Re:Well I'm stoked (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DriedClexler (814907) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:37PM (#26745937)

      Yeah, it's ridiculous to call this a "sixth sense". Reading information from a hand-held device is not an additional sense.

      Now, if we were still living 100+ years ago, when people were far more limited in what information they had access to at any given time, *maybe* you could get away with saying this is another sense. But considering that cognitive science researchers -- many probably at MIT -- have had significant success in giving people genuine additional senses (i.e. allow them to observe the world in some way without directly being told the information or thinking aboug it), it's extremely misleading.

      For example, one time on slashdot there was a story about how scientists fed a compass-like transducer into some guy's nervous system, which allowed him to just "know" about changes in the earth's magnetic field or nearby magnets. And in Jeff Hawkins's On Intelligence, he talks about an experiment where they mapped a low-res black/white camera to an array of rods on someone's tongue that push down for black and let up for white, which allow the subject to see without his own eyes.

      Those are new senses. This device isn't.

      • Re:Well I'm stoked (Score:4, Interesting)

        by evanbd (210358) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @08:08PM (#26746287)

        My brother and I built one of those [sf0.org]. Scroll down to the comments, there are pictures and a description of the circuit. It's not as sophisticated as the MIT one, but it definitely works.

        That, or an implanted magnet to sense EM fields, constitute a "6th sense" imo. Not this.

        (If there's interest, I could be convinced to create a digital version of the schematic and a more complete circuit description with parts list, etc.)

        • Yes, a how-to for this would be very very very nice :-)

          But then, I'd need to learn how to solder first, I never did that in the few EE courses I had to take.

          • Re:Well I'm stoked (Score:5, Informative)

            by evanbd (210358) on Friday February 06, 2009 @12:46AM (#26748337)

            Soldering isn't hard. Learn what a cold solder joint is and how not to make them (short version: heat the joint, then let the solder melt on, don't "paint" it on). Use leaded solder (far easier to work with than the lead-free stuff). More doesn't help; it just gets in the way. Don't overdo it. Tin your tip properly when you first get it, and keep it clean with a wet sponge. Oh, and practice a bit on pieces of wire instead of pricey components :)

            The only schematics that were created on that project were napkin sketches and annotations on the datasheet printouts. I'll draw something up, but not before this weekend. I'll post another reply when I do.

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That, or an implanted magnet to sense EM fields, constitute a "6th sense" imo. Not this.

          I see you mention an implanted magnet. There was an article here on /. a couple years ago now I believe it was where some guy had done just that.

          Implanted a small rare earth element magnet into his finger that allowed him to feel EM fields. I forget if it was the index or ring finger. Pretty weird if you ask me.

      • I'd agree on the first about sensing magnetic fields, but the second is just artificially converting one sense (vision) to another (touch). Thats no more of a new sense than the summary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Merovign (557032)

        Well, everything else is inflated (money, grades, etc.), why not senses?

      • by djtachyon (975314)
        I completely agree, have we already forgotten about tongue based soldier senses [washingtonpost.com]?
    • by WSOGMM (1460481)
      I see dropped prices.
  • I can't help but think of The Game [wikipedia.org].

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      I can't help but think of The Game [wikipedia.org].

      I think you just wanted an excuse to start a Die-Weasely-Die thread.

      • by Zerth (26112)

        I think you just wanted an excuse to start a Die-Weasely-Die thread.

        .

        Wrong fiction genre of annoying youth. Weasely is current fantasy.

        The Wesley you want is science fantasy.

        • by Culture20 (968837)
          *confused*
          Weasely is the nickname given to Wesley Crusher by people who hate him (almost every viewer of TNG)
      • by Nathrael (1251426)
        Crap. You just made me loose the game.
        • And you just made me lose the game.


          +1, grammar nazi
          +1, godwin
          +1, combo

          • by Nathrael (1251426)
            Hey, I'm a grammar nazi too, but only on German forums. But eek, you're right, lose != loose, thanks for pointing it out to me.
  • by mrbene (1380531) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:34PM (#26745905)

    At the heart of the device is a smartphone that uses an Internet connection to retrieve information.

    Further analysis shows that the heart is actually a team of codemonkeys madly devoting all waking hours to understand the hundreds of different data formats needed to supply even the most basic integration.

    Seriously tho, the main cost to developing this would be getting integrated with all the different potential data providers. Recognizing a physical bar code is easy. Looking up the current price at nearby retailers? More difficult.

    • by Chabo (880571)

      Recognizing a physical bar code is easy. Looking up the current price at nearby retailers? More difficult.

      According to the TV ads, T-Mobile claims that the Google Android can do this already.

      I have a 2-year-old $15 prepaid phone, so I can neither confirm nor deny their claims.

      • by esampson (223745) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:49PM (#26746071) Homepage

        I've got a T-Mobile G1 and there are actually a couple of different programs that do this. The one I'm using (and it seems to me the majority of people are using) is ShopSavvy.

        It seems to do a pretty good job of identifying products by barcodes as long as they aren't storebrand items. Its ability to locate the same item at other local stores isn't that great but my guess is that with time they, or someone like them, will build a large enough database and the necessary connections with retailers to make that work. Until then it is mostly useful for looking up reviews for books/DVDs/music and seeing how much I would save going to Amazon, letting me know if I'll save enough to make it worth my while to wait.

  • More like (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SupremoMan (912191) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:37PM (#26745933)
    The 6th sense is what the corporation gets by tracking your ever query.
  • MIT researchers have combined a mobile projector with a webcam and mobile phone to create a device that draws visual information from the environment.

    Fixed that for ya.

  • Minor pet peeve (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101 ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:37PM (#26745945) Homepage Journal

    I already have a sixth external sense... it's the sense of acceleration in my inner ear, colloquially known as the sense of balance. That one's just as important as the other senses.

    Of course, there are other more minor senses that are subsets of the sense of touch, like heat and cold, which are actually different mechanisms, but those are arguable as truly separate senses. There's also the sense of body position, whose name escapes me, but that's not an external sense.

    What was TFA about, again? :)

    • Re:Minor pet peeve (Score:5, Informative)

      by snicho99 (984884) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:48PM (#26746055) Homepage

      There's also the sense of body position, whose name escapes me, but that's not an external sense.

      Proprioception
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprioception [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Minor pet peeve (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dpilot (134227) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @08:28PM (#26746473) Homepage Journal

      I read an article in the past year about a different "sixth sense" experiment. They made a belt of cellphone-type vibrators, then controlled them such that the northmost vibrator was activated. In essence a built-in compass. Subjects quit noticing the vibration after a few days. Within a few weeks, they had "perfect direction," and it wasn't just the ability to point north, or any other particular direction. Their sense of distance, position, etc, were all much better. The big point of the experiment was to see if an adult brain could internalize and integrate the new information source.

      It could.

      I want one.

      Though it occasionally abandons me, I generally have a very good sense of direction. Let me study a map, get oriented, and I can usually get you there. I can usually give bearing and distance to an arbitrary destination in the general area. But I'd like my sense of direction to be PERFECT. (or darned close to it)

      Incidentally, the effects persisted for several weeks after the device was removed.

      There's also talk about a magnetic grain embedded in the heads of some animals. They've studied the grain, and found that it's the largest size that can naturally be a single magnetic domain. Smaller, and it gives less "signal". Larger, and it splits into multiple domains, and again gives less signal. Sounds like a natural magnetic compass to me. Maybe there's a little bit of residual prewiring in the human brain for such a directional sense, which is why the vibrator belt experiment worked so well.

      • Re:Minor pet peeve (Score:5, Informative)

        by Tomun (144651) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @08:37PM (#26746559)
        You perhaps read this [wired.com], and you're not the only person to want one. This guy [exothermia.net] also built one, and perhaps we should too.
        • by evanbd (210358)
          As mentioned above, I also built one [sf0.org] (scroll down a bit, it's in the comments). Mine's simpler than that one, and entirely analog (which has both pluses and minuses). I don't have a handy schematic, but I'll get one drawn up and post a more informative link in a day or three when everyone has forgotten about the /. story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Maybe there's a little bit of residual prewiring in the human brain for such a directional sense, which is why the vibrator belt experiment worked so well.

        I think it's mostly that humans already have a built-in mechanism for dead-reckoning, which is enhanced when we get something to give us additional external cues. Humans generally keep track of which way is north, but it can get out of whack over time.

        I can actually fool my dead-reckoning sense by lying in my bed with my eyes closed and rolling my body

        • by Vegeta99 (219501)

          That's really your proprioceptive sense (body position relative to itself). If you roll your tongue up in your mouth right, it feels like you punched a hole in it and can touch your palate.

          • No, it's my sense of direction out of wack. I know where all parts of my body are, but it feels like my orientation relative to the world is "wrong" from what I intellectually know is true.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Urza9814 (883915)

        A DIY version of this was just on hackaday today actually.

        http://hackaday.com/2009/02/05/haptic-compass/ [hackaday.com]

        It's apparently _very_ easy to build...so if you want one, build it! :)

      • by alexo (9335)

        The big point of the experiment was to see if an adult brain could internalize and integrate the new information source.
        It could.

        I want one.

        An adult brain?

      • by smithmc (451373) *

        No right to privacy in the Constitution? What part of the 9th Amendment do you FAIL to understand?

        The 9th Amendment says that we must not rule out the possibility of a right to privacy just because it is not explicitly granted in the Constitution. That doesn't automatically mean there is such a right. That's for the courts and/or Congress to decide.

        • by dpilot (134227)

          I'm speaking more to the people who say, "The Constitution does not specifically mention privacy, therefore it is not a right." There were those at the time who feared that the Bill of Rights would in time be taken as an enumeration of rights, and the 9th amendment was part of their attempt to dispell that notion. Unfortunately the pessimists appear to have been proven correct.

    • Along the lines of heat and cold, you have several different type of pain receptors which are seperate from your proprioception sensors and tactile sensors. I think nociception (sensing pain) definitely qualifies as it's own seperate sense if this webcam thing does. It shouldn't be lumped under touch, most aren't triggered that way.

    • by juancnuno (946732)

      There's also the sense of body position, whose name escapes me, but that's not an external sense.

      It's called proprioception. [wikipedia.org]

    • by inviolet (797804)

      I already have a sixth external sense... it's the sense of acceleration in my inner ear, colloquially known as the sense of balance. That one's just as important as the other senses.

      Perfectly said.

      I hold this topic in my mind as a shining, breathtaking example of how everyone, every book and teacher in the world, is cobviously wrong. And I'm carrying two three-axis accellerometers to prove it.

      Enough examples like this will turn anyone into a cynical little subversive [wikipedia.org] like me.

  • using a webcam you can get a picture, using the internet on a mobile you can get information, the technology has been there for ages to be able to get as much extra information as you want about whatever is in front of the camera, the only limiting factor is surely the software needed to be writen to identify items and then collect the appropriate information from the internet. This doesnt seem much different to saying that with a webcam and a mobile, you can identify them and pull up their facebook profile
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jbloggs (535329)
      it it clear that you have no idea what this device is actually doing, but since the article was so bad i'm not suprised. i, on the other hand, am at the media lab and have seen it in action. it makes the entire world around you a touch-sensitive device that can be digitally interacted and augmented with.
  • by NonUniqueNickname (1459477) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:45PM (#26746033)
    Scanning a bar code and looking up info and prices on the internet is such a a cool idea. In fact, it's such a super-cool idea that it won a prize. Last year. On Android. See:
    http://code.google.com/android/adc_gallery/ [google.com]
    and
    http://www.android.com/market/#app=compareeverywhere [android.com]
  • For a second there I thought that someone had finally invented the tricorder.

  • by topham (32406) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:48PM (#26746057) Homepage

    Ok, I'm getting seriously disappointed with slashdot. A story about a webcam, cellphone and automatically look up crap online? Fine. The technical aspects are interesting; but sixth-sense slant? Kill it before it breeds.

    I have a god-damn cellphone with camera and internet and I don't think it's a sixth-sense feature when i use it to look something up. COME ON; it isn't 1971!

  • Sixth sense (Score:5, Funny)

    by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:55PM (#26746133) Homepage Journal

    By fans of the Fifth Element
    Programmed in Forth
    Costing you the third of your hundred dollar bills
    Sold by advertisers with second sight
    Redundant by the tine the first is sold

    • Spread out over 16 blocks, I found
      all twelve monkeys, the whole ten yards (or is that "the whole nine yards"?)
      detected using a "sixth sense" device
      made from the fifth element
      built in four rooms
      while telling three stories about Joan
      committing the first deadly sin

      If you count the lines in this story, they add up to my lucky number, slevin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's a device NAMED 6th Sense device... That's what they called the project.

    You are acting like they claim to have FOUND a 6th sense...

    Seriously, over-thinking is a sign of lesser intelligence.

  • Sixth Sense!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vertana (1094987) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @08:29PM (#26746485) Homepage

    Am I the only one who read the headline and said MIT created a way to see dead people!? Of course it would be MIT...

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Proof that M. Night Shyamalan's 15 minutes are up. "I see dead filmmakers!"

    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      No,.. I saw the spoon icon, and made a Matrix connection.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, so much effort goes into creating devices for comparison shopping when you are in a store, but the store rarely if ever has the best price. If it's a small purchase (e.g., a book), you can decide if it's worth $5 to buy it in person instead of Amazon without having to look it up. If it's a big purchase, you better be comparison shopping before you go. Okay, maybe there's some value to having online reviews available of books while you are browsing in the store, but how long before B&N or Bord

  • Why do they call it the sixth sense?

    Wouldn't tenth sense be a better claim? (albeit marketting)

    What really annoys me about this is that there are already nine recognized physical senses, two interoceptive ones, six exteroceptive and two feedback senses.

    I still can't understand why some who claim to be scientists still think in terms of the limited "5 senses" model which has been outdated for more than a century.

    GrpA

  • so this is a seventh sense, not SIXTH.

  • Your body has always had six senses: Sight, Touch, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Balance. Why the tradition has been to claim there are only five is beyond me.

  • Leave it to the extras. All I need is a sphere, bolt and cord :-)
  • I'd hook it up so it would emit a tiny electric discharge every time it senses something I should be warned about, a tingle if you will. I'll call it my spidey sense. It would also help me rationalize getting a tattoo like this.

    http://www.geekologie.com/2008/04/23/spiderman-tat-1.jpg [geekologie.com]

  • Tricorder? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iamangry (1463943)
    This sort of technology seems to be the first step towards a tricorder... albeit a primitive one designed to help you be a "better" consumer. Now they just need to add this into a visor (like the ones you can plug into your ipod or whatever), and you'd have a HUD.
  • Not always what it's cracked up to be.

    Get out of my life!

  • The only information I want to "draw from the environment" is the light emitted from the ladies' shower at my gym.
  • Get out of my life!! I do not want/need Minority Report- like adverts!
    I'm to the point of developing and making what I think I need/want.
    *hint: it has nothing to do with current marketing. "I will research, and make up my own mind!!"

    GO THE FUCK Away, Maarketdroids!!...You aare wasting time and resources on me!

  • make you see dead people?

  • So... they've resurrected the CueCat?
  • device that draws information from the environment

    I thought it was a story about someone trying to patent the 5 senses we already have.

  • Actually useful new senses include:
    1. Timing
    2. Proportion
    3. Justice
    4. When people are lying
    5. Trouble (e.g., via scary background music)
    6. Due Measure

    Sensing bargains? Not so much.

  • Some time ago I saw a television program about extreme body modifications, and I saw one guy who had a small round magnet which he put inside of a silicone shell and implanted into one of his fingertips. The magnet would vibrate when in the proximity of an electric field. Basically, he could use it to sense when a circuit was on, and could tell what frequency the power was.

    Seems much more useful than the drivel in TFA.
  • Does anyone have a link to the TED conference talk? I can't find the video on the TED website. Thanks!
  • Think about something like this plugged into hyperlocal shopping indexes. It would finally drive prices through the floor as you could have 2, 3, or 50 of these things doing your shopping for you, consulting your list of barred outlets/products, and choosing the cheapest of all your shopping list from the rest. The trade-off for most bargain hunters was often the time aspect of running to many stores, but something like this with a decent navigation software bundle could change that.

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