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Demo of a New "Sixth Sense" Technology 187

Posted by kdawson
from the i-see-live-data dept.
TEDChris writes "Here's an intriguing attempt at a versatile new tech device that tries to augment the wearer's five senses. It comes out of Patty Maes's group at the MIT Media Lab. By combining a computerized personal projector with a camera and linking both to the Net, a host of surprising new applications becomes possible. This 8-minute demo created a lot of buzz at TED last month and was posted online today. Would love to know what the Slashdot community makes of it."
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Demo of a New "Sixth Sense" Technology

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  • Sixth Sense (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:43PM (#27138565)

    Turns out that the character played by Bruce Willis was shot dead at the beginning of the movie.

    Warning: the preceding was a spoiler.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PPH (736903)
      I thought Willis' career was mortally wounded by Hudson Hawk [imdb.com].
    • Re:Sixth Sense (Score:4, Informative)

      by SenseiLeNoir (699164) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @08:36AM (#27148721)

      The only issue i have is that there is actually already more than five senses in the human body.

      In addition to:
      - Sight
      - Hearing
      - Taste
      - Smell
      - Touch

      There is:

      - Balance and acceleration
      - Temperature
      - Kinesthetic sense (the part of the brain that tells the position of various parts of our limbs. Previously this was thought to be related to touch, but its been found in weightlessness, our brains can still "sense" the position of our limbs.)
      - Pain (different to touch, as pain can exist without touch.

      There are also other senses used for respiratory, etc.

      • Also there's the noise generator, also known as the creative mind. If you count senses as basically a signal generator (IE: eyes generate a signal based on the light levels, ears generate a signal, etc.) then the creative mind is definitely one as well. Too many people think of the senses as the sense itself plus the filtering system of the brain (and the recording and cataloging sections as well). Looking at them as a package prevents one from seeing that the filtering, recording and cataloging systems

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:44PM (#27138585)
    Now you really CAN see dead people!
    • by von_rick (944421)
      And you won't have to imagine someone without their clothes. You can just turn on the mode which shows everyone like they would sans theirs clothes. And if you get caught doing that, you also risk getting killed, in which case you will not only be able to see dead people, you'll become one with them. Yippie.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tlhIngan (30335)

        And you won't have to imagine someone without their clothes. You can just turn on the mode which shows everyone like they would sans theirs clothes. And if you get caught doing that, you also risk getting killed, in which case you will not only be able to see dead people, you'll become one with them. Yippie.

        Wasn't there a Sony camcorder over a decade ago that could do this?

        ISTR that it was recalled due to its "night vision" mode turning into more like "x-ray vision", except stopping at just under the clothe

        • by Abreu (173023)

          [citation needed]

          ...or as kids nowadays say: "Pics or it didn't happen!"

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by CatsupBoy (825578)
            Reuters [deadmedia.org]

            Linked to from the references section of this wikipedia article:

            Infrared photography [wikipedia.org]
          • It's real, all right. I've got one. It basically is a DVR with a very weak IR blocking filter. It's more suggestive than useful. And in general, it's better if those sorts of things are left to your imagination.
        • by Cyberax (705495)

          All you need for this feature is a simple IR camera.

          It's easy to do - just remove IR filter (looks like transparent plastic film) from any cheap digital camera and add visible light filter (red plastic film).

        • by Zerth (26112)

          Yup, suprisingly many fabrics are IR transparent/translucent.

          A fun thing to do is get a black shirt that is grey under IR and write messages on it in black or blue marker. Freaks out security, but looks almost normal to the mook asking you to take off your shoes.

          Not so much fun at casinos, though.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:46PM (#27138603)

    Now all we need are web casters, ultra-sticky material for the hands and feet, and someone to beat Tobby MacGuire with a bar of soap in a sock if he comes anywhere near it.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:48PM (#27138643)

    I, as a typical human, have plenty more than five senses. I would have hoped that people's understanding of their own body would have continued past grade-school.

    But in any event, I welcome yet another sense beyond my current twenty-something.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrLang21 (900992)
      This isn't a "sense" at all. A "sense" implies something that provides continual information about your immediate environment. This is just another human interface to a computer. Nothing to see here.
      • by von_rick (944421) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:00PM (#27138851) Homepage
        The purpose of putting the term "sixth sense" in quotes tells you that it clearly isn't a sixth sense in literal terms. They are just calling it so because they couldn't find any other term which would make people sit through the whole demo, which btw was ultra-sleek.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Curtman (556920) *

        This is just another human interface to a computer. Nothing to see here.

        Did you watch the video? There is definitely something to see here.

        I expected to have a foodarackacycle and a rosie robot by now, at least a flying car. But this will do for now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DrLang21 (900992)
          I did. Looks like a specialized PDA with internet access. We were supposed to have hand held devices that would do similar things with RFID tags by now. If that can't make it to the market, this stands no chance. I predict that the technology is far too expensive for a consumer device.
          • by tsm_sf (545316) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:42PM (#27139551) Journal
            Should I get off your lawn?
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by edelholz (1098395)

            She said that the components cost about $350 as is.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by lawaetf1 (613291)

              Sure.. just like the "components" of my server costs only $5,000. Then there's the $30k database license sitting on it. And the 2A of power it draws, and the $1k/month internet connection.. and my salary.. etc. Her hardware cost reference is to promote the "why don't we have this now?" reaction.

              Anyone else notice the instances of him using the device (bookstore, grovery store) were conspicuously dimly lit? Not knocking what is certainly a clever packaging of components in an experimental doodad.. but wo

          • by Curtman (556920) * on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:44PM (#27139585)

            I did. Looks like a specialized PDA with internet access.

            Yeah, just like that except you aren't holding a PDA in your hands, it's projecting on to surfaces that you are looking at.

            I predict that the technology is far too expensive for a consumer device.

            Again, I predict that you didn't watch the video. They built it with "off the shelf" parts for $350.

            • by DrLang21 (900992)

              They built it with "off the shelf" parts for $350.

              Now add in manufacturing labor and maintenance, R&D costs, quality control, profit and marketing. A lot more than component cost goes into making a device. I would estimate with bulk orders, you could get the component cost down to $275-$300. That's not bad. Now you'll need to double it or probably more. Pretty soon it costs as much as a laptop and the iPhone becomes cheaper.

              • by Curtman (556920) *
                Yeah, because this thing and the iPhone do exactly the same thing right?
                • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                  by cream wobbly (1102689)

                  No, silly. The iPhone makes phone calls as well.

        • Darn !

          There goes my desk, phone, computer. 8)

          Empty cubicles, guys ?

          I, for one, welcome the next topic on "the best/cheapest 15%gray paint/cover you can slap on the cubicle" (tm)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Exactly. Now the cyborg implant of a magnet in the middle finger of the left hand- that at least does SOMETHING NEW.

      • Nothing to see here.

        Or, in actual fact, "something to see here", because that's all it is: a clumsy device that relies on vision. Clever, but like that stupid Segway thing, ultimately useless.

        Hint: if nobody tries to copy you, you're failing.

    • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:59PM (#27138833)

      I, as a typical human, have plenty more than five senses. I would have hoped that people's understanding of their own body would have continued past grade-school.

      Yup. This is a pet-peeve of mine, too. Humans have between 9-16 senses [wikipedia.org] (or more), depending on how you want to count/divide them. The "5 senses" idea dates back to Aristotle... and we've learned quite a bit about the world and the human body since then. Frankly it's ridiculous that even in grade school children are told that humans have 5 senses: it's patently false. And it's quite easy to demonstrate otherwise (e.g. ask a person if they can sense which way is down).

      It bugs me to no end that these kinds of basic science mistakes are repeated ad nauseum.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by petes_PoV (912422)
        The thing about school is that it biggest tacit lesson is to give the expected answer - not the correct one. As the OP, I use this exact question (along with how many colours in a rainbow) as an example.

        It goes down great with the kids, though the teachers I know, hate it.

      • by Goldsmith (561202) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:37PM (#27139477)

        Depends on who you ask...

        I would say we have only 4 senses: chemical, light, pressure and temperature... but part of my job is to work on electrical analogues of sense and often this boils down to the most basic properties. For example, telling which way is down is just an application of a pressure sensor, even though it's nothing like a sense of "touch".

        Of course, I understand completely that a neurologist is going to have a different opinion, which is correct in its own way, and probably more similar to how a computer scientist would think of things.

        But, yeah, the 5 senses thing is pretty dumb.

        • by node 3 (115640) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @04:32PM (#27140357)

          I would say we have only 4 senses

          And I would say you're too smart for your own good. A sense is an aspect of the physical world you can detect, it's *not* the type of physical phenomena being utilized in the sense. Otherwise, all senses are just chemical (or electro-chemical, if you want).

          The sense of up and down is distinct from the sense of rough or smooth, even though both use pressure, just like a radio antenna and a roll of photographic film are distinct even though they both measure electromagnetism.

          • by Goldsmith (561202)

            So... the sense of light intensity different from frequency? Do we have a sense of wind? Insects detect chemicals with antenna which work much differently than animal noses, does that mean they don't really "smell"? You can go crazy with the number of ways we interact with the world, or you can try to generalize them. I find it more convenient to generalize, but I understand the biological reasons for enumerating slight differences in senses.

            Also, I'm not just being clever. I didn't come up with those

            • Here's a case where "much differently than" could be misunderstood. Which is it?

              1. insects detect chemicals with antenna which work much differently from animal noses

              2. insects detect chemicals with antenna which work in a much wider variety of ways than animal noses

              I suspect you meant 1., but 2. is also valid in this case. Please learn the correct prepositions to use with verbs.

              Also, when you say "animal noses", I assume you did not mean "mammal, reptile, fish, bird, and insect", and that you simply meant

      • by inviolet (797804)

        Yup. This is a pet-peeve of mine, too. Humans have between 9-16 senses (or more), depending on how you want to count/divide them. The "5 senses" idea dates back to Aristotle... and we've learned quite a bit about the world and the human body since then. Frankly it's ridiculous that even in grade school children are told that humans have 5 senses: it's patently false. And it's quite easy to demonstrate otherwise (e.g. ask a person if they can sense which way is down).

        I find this absurd situation to be quite

      • by dbIII (701233)
        Some time ago I heard a radio interview with an apparently famous (forgot the name) US dancer from New York who was quite articulate and intelligent but completely illiterate. He said he had listed over twenty "senses" in his head, he was unaware of the usual meaning of the word and that you can have different forms of perception based upon combinations of senses. He was also following the fashion of changing the meaning of words at whim to make up for a limited vocabulary.

        We talk of "depth perception" in

    • by BeanThere (28381)

      "Sixth sense" is a metaphorical, idiomatic phrase. I would've thought that people's understanding of basic English would have continued past grade-school.

  • I guess (Score:3, Informative)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:52PM (#27138721)
    this sixth sense doesn't help to identify dupes, since this, or something very much like this, was just on /. a few weeks ago.
  • by sam0737 (648914) <sam@chowCOLAchi.com minus caffeine> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:59PM (#27138835)

    I hope I can get the information overlay'ed on my glass instead of projecting out. First it should get better contrast, second I don't need to display what I am looking to the public.

    Put the calibration aside, I would need to start wearing glass...Or should we get the video overlay signal injected into the brain?

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @04:01PM (#27139865) Homepage

      Yeah, that was my reaction. It's one thing if all the information being displayed would be a standard default, but as soon as you customize what data to show you, you're already displaying private information about yourself whenever using this. It'd be much better if it was displayed in a format that was private, that only you could see.

      Beyond that, if it's something mounted in your glasses, it seems like it opens the potential (perhaps) to track eye movement and therefore guess at what you're looking at. That might open the door to have it make more intelligent guesses as to what kind of information you're looking for, instead of just displaying information about whatever happens to be in front of you.

      But I gather from the video that this was all just supposed to be a starting point or proof of concept rather than an actual product. Maybe given an investment, building it into glasses would be more feasible.

  • Wearable Display? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GerardAtJob (1245980)

    The use of a retinal display could complement this thing nicely... but since microvision have all and every patent on this... and only create stuff for military purpose, we won't see anything like this soon...

  • This idea was featured in Spook Country by William Gibson.

  • with all that technology the girl at the end would have a calculator watch.

  • of the VR artwork mentioned in William Gibson's "Spook Country". However, I don't think the projector idea is very practical. Probably it will be replaced by some sort of head-up display, like transparent VR glasses that overlay what you see with generated images.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      You can already do this in a limited fashion with Google Maps on the Google phone. Using the built-in compass and tilt sensors, it can display a Street View image that changes as you pan the phone to correspond with the direction the display is pointed. Which opens up the possibility for someone to write an app for the Google phone that takes the camera image in real time and displays it on the LCD with superimposed 3D virtual modifications that everybody running the app could then see at the same location.
  • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:13PM (#27139103)

    I already know how to augment a person's senses: it's called SID (Sensory Integration Disorder). Anyone with SID is automatically the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Doesn't require any awkward paraphernalia, either, just a few rearranged genes! You probably already know one of these SID people, like the guy who screams at the neighborhood kids to stop that infernal racket!

    • by macraig (621737)

      "So you mean that mutants with super hearing and x-ray vision are walking among us now? ZOMG! Call Nathan Petrelli and round 'em up!"

      • by dbIII (701233)
        With just a crack in the skull in the wrong place you too could have super hearing. It's apparently also very difficult to fix because there are a lot of important bits of brain right next to it.
        • by macraig (621737)

          Since I have SID, I already have super hearing, thanks, but most of the time I wish I *didn't* have it. It's a life-altering distraction that can't be turned-off. That might be one good thing to say for a tech alternative: it will of course have the on-off switch that I wish I had.

  • Does it make it more enjoyable?

  • At least now when you are caught staring at a womans chest you can blame it on your projector display.
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:45PM (#27139607)
    Imagine all the great opportunities for gaslighting [wikipedia.org] people you don't like you could create by hacking into this device while somebody else is wearing it!
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @03:49PM (#27139683)
    When is the MIT Media Lab going to start working on something that is actually USEFUL to the common person? Say something in the field of teledildonics [wikipedia.org], for example.
  • Surprising? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alrescha (50745) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @04:02PM (#27139867)

    "a host of surprising new applications becomes possible"

    Surprising? New?

    No. Please read some Vernor Vinge. To stay on topic, I recommend "Fast Times at Fairmont High", which covers the concept of augmented reality quite well. Someone wake me when technology catches up to that.

    That said, I think it's wonderful that someone is working on it.

    A.

    • Vernor Vinge invented cyberspace (although I don't think he coined the term) in True Names.

      If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Read True Names to get a notion of the profound visionary Vernor Vinge is. (Remember it was published in 1981).

      Then read Rainbows End with your newfound respect for Vinge's powers of prognostication, and recognize that you're seeing into the near future.

      (This post is a blatant copy of an old post of mine.)

      • Rainbow's End was the first thing I thought of too. I believe the novel was set in 2023 (maybe it was 2033?). That sounds like a world with the type of tech that I'd love to live in. Ubiquitous self driving cars, medical miracles, retinal overlays which alter your visual reality. Though I suppose I could probably do without the human race teetering on the edge of oblivion thing.

        I've seen a couple comments when browsing reviews on Amazon stating that the year was way out of the realm of possibility.
        • by wurp (51446)

          That's great - I wanted to do almost exactly the app he's doing with the "treasure hunt" for a mobile platform.

          The only difference was that I wanted to make it more of a large scale thing, and use gps to get you close. I didn't think about using features to guide you once you get close... I was going to use large scale features for which the error in gps coordinates wouldn't be an issue. The thing that prevented me from doing the app is that I would need a digital compass in the phone to be able to tell

          • I don't think phones have the computing power to do dynamic features now

            Actually they do. There are several working implementation of dense feature detectors on the smartphone, including SIFT [wikipedia.org], FAST [cam.ac.uk] and SURF [wikipedia.org], and some of them are capable of doing planar image registration(like Daniel Wagner "markerless" tracker [youtube.com]. It's using image as fiduciary [wikipedia.org]). The real difficulty is getting 3d structure form motion [wikipedia.org] on the mobile, but that could be possible too soon. My opinion is tat 500+Mhz smartphone with floating poin

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @04:33PM (#27140369) Journal

    Just what really revolutionary devices have been developed and put into common use by MIT Media Lab? I see a lot of hype from them, and it's getting less and less realistic and more obviously pie-in-the-sky. Science in the popular media only requires this condition and that's where Media Lab seems to live now. Real applications require more. What concretely have they done, previously and lately?

    If they're stuck in theory mode, so be it. But then they should present their theories as such, not as super duper gaming gizmos on the verge of revolutionizing everyday life.

    I'm still waiting for my jeans with the embedded keyboard they "demo'd" a decade or more ago.

  • The tough part in a "real world environment" is understanding the users intentions. They left out all of the hand gestures you would need to explain your intentions to the computer. Which makes this far more complex to interact with than shown here.
  • I think this is a neat demo but where can I find me some source code and help extend it?
  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:51PM (#27141569)

    Hmm ...

    Taste, smell, vision, hearing, touch, balance, temperature, spatial.

    I suspect I'm leaving several more out, but which ones am I supposed to ditch?

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