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On-Body Circuits Create New Sense Organ

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the don't-tag-this-porn dept.

Biotech 289

destinyland writes "In 'My New Sense Organ,' a science writer tests 'a new sense' — the ability to always know true north — by strapping a circuit board to her ankle. It's connected to an electronic compass and an ankle band with eight skin buzzers. The result? 'I had wrong assumptions I didn't know about ... I returned home to Washington DC to find that, far worse than my old haunt San Francisco, my mental map of DC swapped north for west. I started getting more lost than ever as the two spatial concepts of DC did battle in my head.' The device also detects 'the specific places where infrastructure interferes with the earth's magnetic fields.'

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Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29441855)

Been done. Do something novel.

Re:Yawn (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | about 5 years ago | (#29441969)

This actually would have interesting applications in psycho-physics research.

Much more practical... (4, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 5 years ago | (#29441895)

A bracelet! Much more practical than the haptic compass belt [grinding.be] , then.

What qualifies for new sensory organ? (4, Insightful)

Bicx (1042846) | about 5 years ago | (#29441917)

Is this really a new sensory organ if it just relies on buzzers rather than direct neural connections? Maybe I've just been spoiled by all the awesome research done in computer-brain interfaces.

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (2, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 5 years ago | (#29441997)

If university students took it upon themselves to do some advanced neurological surgery as a fun project...

THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.

I hope they would Youtube the procedure.

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

GameMaster (148118) | about 5 years ago | (#29442815)

What would be even more awesome would be if they chose to do it to themselves with the help of some Yoga classes and a mirror. That would make for one heck of a YouTube video.

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

Hyppy (74366) | about 5 years ago | (#29442001)

I find it fascinating, actually. Why have direct neural connections when one's body makes all the necessary interpretations based upon available stimuli?

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | about 5 years ago | (#29442605)

Lag !
(and retroaction, but that is another subject)

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

GameMaster (148118) | about 5 years ago | (#29442877)

Yup. Of course, the next question becomes what, practical, application can you think of in which you would need ultra-low lag in finding magnetic north? Really, most of the, truly, useful applications of direct neural connections would be in the realm of controlling electronic devices and directly manipulating our perception to create realistic VR for entertainment interaction with remote/dangerous environments.

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (3, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 5 years ago | (#29442205)

It has little teeny tiny pipes, bellows, keyboard, and guy in a cape with a mask over half his face.

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

Bicx (1042846) | about 5 years ago | (#29442243)

I knew I should have taken anatomy

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (5, Interesting)

joocemann (1273720) | about 5 years ago | (#29442389)

The body is an amazing thing. The brain, too. I was recently reading about a camera device that sends signal data to a 'lollipop' that is placed on the tongue of blind people. In short time, the people's brains began to interpret the signals (which are not the same as optical signals at all) as to what it truly was --- and the patients began to see. http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/08/22/2035256 [slashdot.org]

It really amazes me at the ability of the brain to start with some from of stimulus (beit natural or induced) and decipher its relevance.

The difference in what qualifies 'sensory organ' may well be semantics; or maybe we need new definitions to describe these novel apparatus.

In contrast, neurons are not in direct connection, either; neurotransmitters span a space between them called the synaptic cleft. Those neurotransmitters are chemical stimuli; these 'buzzers' are electronic stimuli. There are some differences and none are very clearly understood, but as far as I know we might accomplish the same by 'buzzing' with small and rapid doses of neurotransmitters instead of buzzing.

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

Bicx (1042846) | about 5 years ago | (#29442559)

I have a degree in Computer Science with a concentration in scientific applications, and my education only leaves me more amazed and confounded by how well the brain adapts to situations that would have never even happened in a natural setting (like the mouthpiece connected to the camera device).

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 years ago | (#29442703)

The ability of the brain to find a pattern in some stimuli and built "on the fly" a new sense of it is simply amazing, and opens the possibility of new senses for all, even if is as a fashion trend.

But mass deployment must be aware that it also takes place, or adds "noise", to at least a region of our actual existing senses, information that could have been useful or needed and now become blurred by this artificial input. And there is of course the physical impact of it in that area. Picking the right place for mapping a new sense will be a delicate topic for this.

Wonder what kind of new senses will be nice to add this way, or if the eyes will keep being the typical overloaded organ putting it all in i.e. augumented reality devices like this ones [slashdot.org]

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29443003)

I remember reading an article about this kind of thing in what I believe was Wikipedia (though I can't seem to find it at the moment). It seems that similar experiments have been dome for many decades. What varies between the different projects is the size of the equipment and the area of the body chosen. I seem to remember some of them using the skin on the back as well as the back of the hands among other locations. The trick is to find an area of the body that the user wouldn't mind, too much, loosing the normal use of but also making sure that that area has a high density of touch receptors. Certain sections of skin, such as the finger tips, are much more sensitive to touch because they have more nerve endings. Over time, with enough practice, the brains of the users re-wired themselves to perceive the 2d input of the device poking their skin as image information (just as you mentioned). Of course, it's no-where near as effective as real eyes but it does provide a potential intermediary step between being blind and the development of full-quality artificial eyes (or the ability to just clone new ones).

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29443059)

i think they invented that system to help SCUBA divers navigate in the dark (and plant explosives on enemy boats at night).

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

cabjf (710106) | about 5 years ago | (#29442511)

Technically this is a computer-brain interface. The device is just using convenient, pre-existing inputs to the brain. The average person considers taste a sense even though it relies heavily on one's sense of smell. So what the difference if this relies on someone's sense of touch?

Re:What qualifies for new sensory organ? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 5 years ago | (#29442991)

It's still not a new sense, any more than a regular compass that communicates via a naturally occurring one.

I found that by simply moving the buzzers... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29441925)

...from my ankle to a more "centrally located area" and I stopped caring about getting lost.

In fact, turning in circles became quite pleasurable.

Does anyone have any kleenex handy?

Re:I found that by simply moving the buzzers... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29441959)

huh huh huh... organ... huh huh huh...

Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (1)

HiChris! (999553) | about 5 years ago | (#29441949)

I highly doubt this thing know how to correct true North from magnetic North data. That said, they'd be quite close in most places people would actually use it.

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442305)

For the US, magnetic and true north only line up in a region aligned with Chicago. Going from the west coast to DC, you get a magnetic variance of 28 degrees difference (16 degrees off one direction in CA, 12 degrees off the other direction in DC).

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (2, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 5 years ago | (#29442325)

No, but the user might know how to correct for it.

Step 1: look up magnetic declination for your location (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/IGRF_2000_magnetic_declination.gif [wikimedia.org]

Step 2: rotate the ankle bracelet to compensate.

Or stand where you know you are facing true north, then rotate anklet until it indicates true north.

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29442527)

Step 1: look up magnetic declination for your location (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/IGRF_2000_magnetic_declination.gif [wikimedia.org]

With only 8 transducers, thats 45 degree resolution, and per the map there are very few people living where the declination error approaches 45 degrees, or even within an area exceeding 22.5 degrees. If you somehow could detect even a 12.25 degree error, most of the worlds population would only be at most one "digit" off.

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (1)

Firehed (942385) | about 5 years ago | (#29442647)

Why not just add a GPS receiver into the mix to compensate for MN/TN separation? If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing - right? It only needs to be accurate within 20 miles or so (unless you're in Antarctica or the North Pole) which should still get you easily within a degree of the offset so grabbing location from the nearest cell tower should be more than enough.

Of course, there's always the more traditional, low-tech solution of spending five bucks on a compass and a map, which usually has the magnetic declination listed somewhere if not an entire set of MN lines.

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (1)

DRACO- (175113) | about 5 years ago | (#29442971)

Rotating the anklet would be useless, it always buzzes magnetic North. You could put the anklet on and sit with your shin facing North, spin the anklet and it will continue to vibrate your shin as it senses the magnetic North turning. Haven't you ever played with a compass?

If adjustment is really that necessary it must be compensated in software/the anklet's wiring.

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#29442379)

That might explain the comment in the article - "My mental map of DC swapped north for west." Perhaps the device isn't showing true north, but a slightly-skewed northwest. I've had similar arguments with my coworkers in this region:

"I-95 runs west and east."
"No it doesn't! It's either north or south."
"Uh yes overall, but through Baltimore it runs a west-east route. The highway lies south of Baltimore's downtown."
"You're nuts."
"Gee thanks."

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (1)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | about 5 years ago | (#29442685)

I can't tell what you're getting at exactly... I notice the same thing in DC though. Something about popping up out of a metro station and assuming a direction makes me feel like I'm moving NS but really it's WE... I don't know how to explain it really but I always feel like W is N too in DC. Strange.

Re:Shouldn't it be magnetic North? (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 5 years ago | (#29443023)

More importantly, declination doesn't vary across the distances involved - declination at the Presidio may be very different from at the Mall, but it's not too far from the declination in Oakland.

This is the future... (5, Interesting)

ohsmeguk (1048214) | about 5 years ago | (#29441991)

I've heard of people implanting tiny rare earth magnets in their fingers so they can sense current flowing through wires and magnetic fields. I would like to try it when I can be certain they won't break when they're under my skin... :P

Re:This is the future... (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 5 years ago | (#29442241)

You could try superglue for a temporary test.

Re:This is the future... (1)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29442563)

You could try superglue for a temporary test.

Latex gloves, even more temporary.

Re:This is the future... (3, Insightful)

lattyware (934246) | about 5 years ago | (#29442699)

Seems like a bad idea on the basis they will eventually corrode inside you, and if you ever need an MRI you'll need to have them out before you can have it.

Re:This is the future... (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | about 5 years ago | (#29443015)

The MRI itself will take them out automatically.

Mental maps... (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 5 years ago | (#29441999)

"...my mental map of DC swapped north for west. I started getting more lost than ever as the two spatial concepts of DC did battle in my head."

And this is surprising how? If you're navigating by landmark and familiarity, you're probably going to be in for a shock when you suddenly move to a coordinate mapping system. This also shows that the creator of this device doesn't look up very often to get her bearings. Not that I'm surprised -- women will navigate first by landmarks and familiarity, and if that fails they fall back on maps. Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map. If I changed a street sign outside my apartment, my male friends probably wouldn't be able to find the place anymore. My female friends, on the other hand, would show up and likely never notice the sign was changed. Insert obligatory quip about evolution of the sexes, rebuttal about stereotypes, and witty retort here. :\

Also, while I'm sure this is quite fascinating to her, the rest of us will just buy one of those $5 compass globes and stick it in the car, and it'll be cheaper than the parts to build this thing.

Re:Mental maps... (4, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 5 years ago | (#29442063)

...buy one of those $5 compass globes and stick it in the car...

Or Forehead.

Re:Mental maps... (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | about 5 years ago | (#29443027)

Compass On
Apply directly to the forehead.

Re:Mental maps... (5, Insightful)

Max Threshold (540114) | about 5 years ago | (#29442081)

"Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map. If I changed a street sign outside my apartment, my male friends probably wouldn't be able to find the place anymore."

Maybe I'm an exception, but I don't think that's true at all. I navigate entirely by landmarks. I don't even know the names of half the streets I travel on regularly. Furthermore, my mental map of the city is framed by our light rail system, major bus lines, and bike throughfares, not by the major roads carrying automobile traffic.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 5 years ago | (#29442257)

Yeah, but those of us who drive find using street names and addresses pretty useful compared to you bus riders.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

Graelin (309958) | about 5 years ago | (#29442397)

On that note, my vision prevents me from reading most street signs far enough in advance to make traffic changes (change langes, slow down and turn, etc.) safely. So I cannot make out Elmendorf DR at 50 yards but the funny looking church, the large hill, the abandoned school are very easy to spot well off in the distance. Or maybe I just drive too fast, that's almost certainly true. I use maps whenever I can but mostly to find the landmarks I'll use to make the turn instead of the name of the street. Obviously, a good GPS would solve this problem too but I've gotten very good at this and google maps on my phone is good enough.

There are some places, like Utah, where most of the streets are named after their grid line. That changes things since I can guess that 1550 is shortly after (or before) 1500 which I just passed.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 5 years ago | (#29442845)

On that note, my vision prevents me from reading most street signs far enough in advance to make traffic changes (change langes, slow down and turn, etc.) safely.

Don't take this the wrong way but it sounds to me like you have no business having a drivers license if your vision is that poor.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#29442425)

I do both.

When I'm in D.C. I think in terms of the red/blue/green metro lines, but once I'm back in my car I think in terms of north, south, east, west, and beltway (to be avoided).

Re:Mental maps... (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | about 5 years ago | (#29442443)

Same here. In fact I prefer to use Google street view to figure out a new route and use the street names only as a backup.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 years ago | (#29442453)

Maybe I'm an exception, but I don't think that's true at all. I navigate entirely by landmarks.

I am the same way, I just know where stuff is. I go back to Santa Cruz (where I was born) and I can find everything but I could never tell you how to get anywhere unless it's really close to a main artery, and sometimes I get the names of those confused.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

cabjf (710106) | about 5 years ago | (#29442589)

There are exceptions to every rule, but studies have shown that men and women remember and give directions differently. It pretty much went just like girlintraining said. Men are more likely to use maps and straight directions (first left, second right, etc), whereas women were more likely to use landmarks (left at such and such restaurant, then past the empty parking lot, etc).

Re:Mental maps... (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | about 5 years ago | (#29442729)

And then there are those of us who use different systems entirely. (Go about 1.5 minutes, then turn left 45 degrees...)

Re:Mental maps... (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | about 5 years ago | (#29442735)

I agree with this post, until I got my GPS I never knew the names of any of the roads outside the area directly around my house, I could get anywhere from where I was as long as I had been there before. It wasn't until I started driving everywhere with my GPS with it showing me the names off all the roads around me that I started being able to actually give directions to a place.

Re:Mental maps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442825)

"Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map. If I changed a street sign outside my apartment, my male friends probably wouldn't be able to find the place anymore."

Maybe I'm an exception

In other words: Maybe you're female ...

Re:Mental maps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442879)

You're no exception. Your responding to a BS generality given in a comment on slashdot. Its like saying you're an exception because the astrology readings in the paper never apply to you.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

hyfe (641811) | about 5 years ago | (#29442921)

Maybe I'm an exception, but I don't think that's true at all. I navigate entirely by landmarks. I don't even know the names of half the streets I travel on regularly. Furthermore, my mental map of the city is framed by our light rail system, major bus lines, and bike throughfares, not by the major roads carrying automobile traffic.

Sounds like you still have an somewhat abstract mental map. It sounds awfully close to what I'm using. I'm still can't easily take directions from most my female friends though.. they'll just constantly use landmarks I have trouble finding even when I'm standing right there.. just turn right after the shop selling those cute figurines.. you see the really nice red building?.. uh, come again?

Re:Mental maps... (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 5 years ago | (#29442975)

And do you enjoy watching The View?

Re:Mental maps... (4, Insightful)

Evildonald (983517) | about 5 years ago | (#29442281)

How to write an "Insightful" comment

1) Find a quote from the article, and claim you've always known it, and what is more everybody already knows it.
2) Make AWESOME generalisations about "how, like, men and women are different, yeah?"

Really insightful. Can we remove the current judges and get new ones?

Re:Mental maps... (1)

metamechanical (545566) | about 5 years ago | (#29442319)

Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map. If I changed a street sign outside my apartment, my male friends probably wouldn't be able to find the place anymore.

Balderdash.

I navigate using a combination of landmark and maps. Like most people, in an unfamiliar area I will use maps exclusively. In an area I am acquainted with though, I pick freeway exits/turns at intersections from a map of the area in my head, but landmarks to guide me to the exact destination. I had to think for a second to come up with the road the supermarket is off of, but could tell you instantly that it is in the shopping center across from the Home Depot. I most certainly don't use any mental map to commute, that would be absurd. That's 100% landmark.

Re:Mental maps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442371)

"Not that I'm surprised -- women will navigate first by landmarks and familiarity, and if that fails they fall back on maps. Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map. If I changed a street sign outside my apartment, my male friends probably wouldn't be able to find the place anymore. My female friends, on the other hand, would show up and likely never notice the sign was changed. Insert obligatory quip about evolution of the sexes, rebuttal about stereotypes, and witty retort here. :\"

But that's just not true. The differences between the male and female brains would indicate that perhaps men are *slightly* more inclined to use visual spatial thinking than are women, but the difference is tiny.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | about 5 years ago | (#29442409)

Not that I'm surprised -- women will navigate first by landmarks and familiarity, and if that fails they fall back on maps. Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map. If I changed a street sign outside my apartment, my male friends probably wouldn't be able to find the place anymore. My female friends, on the other hand, would show up and likely never notice the sign was changed.

In my experience, and pretty much the experience of the vast majority of men on this planet, it's the exact opposite, so I think you are a bit mistaken with your beliefs in your friends.

If you want your obligatory quip about evolution, here you go: men have evolved from hunters and they had to know their landscape pretty damn fucking well in order to catch that $animal, whereas women have evolved from collectors of berries who were pretty much forbidden to venture more than a minute's worth of walking away from the cave.

You seem to be a very confused young lady.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

joocemann (1273720) | about 5 years ago | (#29442433)

didn't you mean 'stick it on our bikes'???

Re:Mental maps... (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 5 years ago | (#29443021)

I don't think 12 year olds and passive agressive green weenies were the target audience.

Re:Mental maps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442467)

I read an article in Scientific American about how there is a slight correlation between women navigating by landmark and men navigating directionally. However, to make that a steadfast rule isn't appropriate. If you study 100 men to determine how they navigate, slightly more than half will navigate directionally. Interestingly, gay men tend towards navigating via landmarks, and gay women tend towards navigating via cardinal directions.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

icebrain (944107) | about 5 years ago | (#29442475)

women will navigate first by landmarks and familiarity, and if that fails they fall back on maps. Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map. If I changed a street sign outside my apartment, my male friends probably wouldn't be able to find the place anymore. My female friends, on the other hand, would show up and likely never notice the sign was changed.

Guess I'm a hybrid navigator then. My mental navigation system is heavily map-based--before going somewhere unfamiliar I try to build at least a rough mental map of where I'm going and where some important things are. But then, once I'm on the ground, I start to correlate landmarks and the map. Occasionally a street name will make its way into the map, but usually it's all landmarks. When I give directions, it's usually a combination of compass directions and landmarks; distances never enter the equation because I can't judge them (numerically, at least; my depth perception and ability to measure them relative to something is fine), and I don't know street names.

Example: I went to Georgia Tech for five years, and even at the end of it I couldn't name more than a handful of streets off campus. Yet I could get just about anywhere that I'd been to before. I can't even name any streets in my current neighborhood other than my own, and I've lived there for a year and a half.

My wife works entirely differently. Her navigation consists of one giant linked list of nodes/intersections, which streets connect to which other ones, and which streets landmarks are on. Maps never enter the equation.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | about 5 years ago | (#29442751)

Er, my equally anecdotal evidence says that a) men use whatever works best for us, b) landmark-based navigation works well in chaotic environments (driving in a typical New England town/city with a mishmash of street that were in no way centrally planned), and map or vector based navigation works well in more organized grid-based environments, and c) map-based navigation beats landmark-based navigation when it comes to detours.

Re:Mental maps... (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 5 years ago | (#29442821)

I get everywhere I go by following whoever looks the most interesting.

Re:Mental maps... (3, Funny)

joeyblades (785896) | about 5 years ago | (#29442865)

Men, on the other hand, rarely use anything but a map.

I think it's cultural.

I lived in Scotland for a while and whenever I asked for directions the men would always say something like: drive down this road a piece until you get to the Crooked Horseshoe Pub, take a right and drive to the second roundabout after the Dog and Monkey Pub. Take the third right and drive to the Old Tennents Pub. Go right at the next roundabout and drive about 3 miles. If you reach the Goose Bridge Pub you've gone too far... Stop and have a cold one, then go back about a mile or so.

Show them a map and they look at you like you just asked them to diagram a sentence in Latin... and you're likely to hear some quaint Scottish expressions...

True North??? (5, Informative)

Cassini2 (956052) | about 5 years ago | (#29442035)

the ability to always know true north ... electronic compass

I've been to Northern Canada. A compass points to MAGNETIC North. True North [wikipedia.org] is at the North pole, the point on which the earth spins. At true north, the sun never sets, and sometimes never rises for days on end. In summer, it has the longest days in the world. In winter, the longest nights. Magnetic north is not the same place at all ...

Magnetic North [wikipedia.org] has some interesting properties too. Amongst others, the Magnetic south and north poles move around, periodically flip, and do not pass through the center of the earth.

Re:True North??? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 5 years ago | (#29442163)

I think they meant True North being "True Magnetic North" and not what "They thought was North" - which is entirely the fault of the people reporting, because a compass doesn't tell you True North.

But a GPS system could - why not make an App for an IPhone

Re:True North??? (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about 5 years ago | (#29442953)

I believe the iPhone 3GS built-in compass app already does this.

Re:True North??? (5, Insightful)

JWyner (653364) | about 5 years ago | (#29442171)

The only person to ever mention "true" north is the Slashdot poster. TFA never describes true north, and actually specifically states that they are using magnetic north. I am not entirely sure *why* they went out of their way to add the "true" and make the description *untrue*, but thought it worth giving credit to the actual science writer for understanding the difference...

its called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442039)

situation awareness. Being aware of your surroundings and directions is always a handy thing.

Being lost & confused is no way to go thru life, son.

I recall the study with the compass belt (1, Informative)

sacremon (244448) | about 5 years ago | (#29442051)

It was posted here two and a half years ago [slashdot.org] .

RT Original FA (1)

FredMertz (38586) | about 5 years ago | (#29442179)

The article refers to the FeelSpace project as the originators of this idea. Wired wrote a more in-depth story on FeelSpace back in 2007 that is still available online [wired.com] .

The net of it, which I found fascinating, was the idea that brain is not "hardcoded" to the standard 5 senses of input, but rather can potentially integrate and synthesize additional sensory type data. This idea is at also the root of technologies like BrainPort [gizmag.com] , "seeing" with the tongue for the visually impaired.

How is this different from holding a Compass? (1, Flamebait)

popo (107611) | about 5 years ago | (#29442221)

Why is this a different "sense" organ? Because it uses the sense of "touch"?

Is a handheld compass also an "on-body" circuit? How about a handheld electronic compass that beeps when you're pointing north?

This story is a nothingburger. The concept here appears to be "but this was strapped to the writers' ankle". As if the pseudo-prosthetic reference has relevance here. The writer would have experienced the same revelations of orientation with dashboard GPS.

Re:How is this different from holding a Compass? (1)

joocemann (1273720) | about 5 years ago | (#29442875)

I don't think you understand what is really going on here. This device does not present data that is interpreted by consciousness, like you would by seeing street signs or looking at a GPS. The user isn't deliberately sensing the signals and thinking 'ok, now THAT buzz means i'm going north'. Rather the user senses north in what is better described as 'instinct'.

You don't shiver (move muscles to generate heat) when it is cold because your consciousness thinks "oh, I sense cold--- i should jiggle my muscles to warm up a little". You shiver without control, your are uncontrollably forced to do so by instinct.

Re:How is this different from holding a Compass? (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about 5 years ago | (#29442903)

It is overloading the function of touch to allow for it to be meaningful in ways other than conventionally allowed. Additionally, there may be psychological differences to having it provide constant tactile feedback and it being a separate thing that you look down upon. Typically people mentally associate location with sight (at least, I know I do). If I'm mixed up enough to not know which way I'm facing, I look at a compass if I have one. If not, I look at my watch to see if the sun is setting or rising, and then look to see where it is.

Admittedly they're hyping it up to make it more grandiose than it really is, but imagine if you will, taking this general idea and building on it, providing a more thorough navigation system that you don't have to hold in your hands. The way that meaningful things are invented is by usually taking a simple or underwhelming idea and then adding to it. Some sort of "Oh, why didn't I think of that?" sort of thing. Unless of course, you think that the wheel was overrated too.

Re:How is this different from holding a Compass? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442955)

Having worn a Northpaw (albeit briefly) myself, I can tell you the difference is significant, even leaving out the bit about how a dashboard GPS doesn't help you when walking, biking, or taking public transit (or someone else's car). It's the difference between push and pull information. A handheld device of any kind means that you have to look at it (at minimum) to get North; you've got to decide you need to know, and act. The anklet pushes the information to you constantly, and over time you can become unaware of the fact that you're getting North from a vibration, you just know where it is.

Re:How is this different from holding a Compass? (1)

pavon (30274) | about 5 years ago | (#29442957)

It is different because you have constant sensory input. It is the difference between sensing temperature with your skin, and by looking at a thermometer. You become aware of changes in temperature immediately whether you were thinking about it or not.

With this device, you become "intuitively" aware of what direction you are facing all the time, whether you are actively navigating somewhere or just walking around a building. It becomes part of your situational awareness rather than a tool you can use when you need it. Because it is always present it changes how you think about navigating, and the mental models that you build up as you move around, because you now include (accurate) direction in everything. Alot of people don't think about direction at all, or only do when they are on major streets that align with the grid. Very few people think in terms of cardinal direction when they are indoors, and often simplify direction when on windy roads. This device changes how they think in those situations.

Tenuously related question... (1)

shic (309152) | about 5 years ago | (#29442237)

What is the best compass technology available today? A magnetised needle is so, erm 20th century - I'd expect a solid state mechanism to identify orientation by now... it's an application I'd like my mobile phone to have.

Re:Tenuously related question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442357)

magnetometer

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetometer

I know its used in airplanes, at the very least.

Re:Tenuously related question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442481)

it's an application I'd like my mobile phone to have.

There's one in the new iPhone 3GS.

Re:Tenuously related question... (1)

jimmyswimmy (749153) | about 5 years ago | (#29442555)

Tempted to reply http://justfuckinggoogleit.com but I'll answer instead of being a [total] dick.

You are probably not interested in the "best" "compass" technology today, since you want something for your phone. There are plenty of solid state solutions to magnetic field detection, one cheap one is available from Honeywell, a magnetoresistive bridge circuit which provides 3D field measurement - the HMC1043. I had a watch with one in it for awhile. It's a 1kohm bridge, which explains why it's not in your cell phone and why my watch battery never lasted very long. Much easier to use the older style watch with the little needle in it. I could wind that up and know which way is North forever (except at night).

Back on topic, I am tempted to build a device which would provide real-time haptic feedback of direction. I wonder if the constant tapping that "this side is North" would feel weird. Or when I would get tired of charging the battery.

Re:Tenuously related question... (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 5 years ago | (#29443079)

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=watch+as+compass [lmgtfy.com]

If you know the time, you know your direction. Normally I wouldn't reply with lmgtfy, but you seem to be someone who'd like to know that url.

Re:Tenuously related question... (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | about 5 years ago | (#29442579)

Casio has digital compasses in a number of their "Pathfinder" watches. For example the PAG40B-2V [casio.com] . However those watches tend to be a bit pricey ($250-$500) and bulky (in part due to the solar panel, barometer, altimeter and temperature sensors that are also in the watches).

Re:Tenuously related question... (1)

joeyblades (785896) | about 5 years ago | (#29442947)

The iPhone already has an integrated magnetic digital compass...

Re:Tenuously related question... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 5 years ago | (#29443025)

but you can get a good magnetic needle compass for like $5.00

Sense Heading! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442245)

Your skill in Sense Heading has improved (19)

Don't need electronics for that (4, Interesting)

Haxamanish (1564673) | about 5 years ago | (#29442267)

When I was a teen, I always consciously kept track where the North was. Every time I made a turn, I would adjust my imaginary compass - yeah I was some kind of freak. I would also make note of the orientation of some landmarks in every city. After a while, it became an automatism, now (over 20 yrs later) I often amaze people by pointing where the North is with very good accuracy without using a compass. It always works, but if I have been a passenger in a car (or other transport) it takes about half an hour after arriving before I know where the North is. Extra bonus: if the sun is visible, I can read the time of day from its position. I guess everybody can train it with a little bit of effort.

Re:Don't need electronics for that (1)

diskofish (1037768) | about 5 years ago | (#29442731)

A half hour? Why can't you just look up at the sky and see where the sun is and deduce where the sun is?

Re:Don't need electronics for that (1)

Haxamanish (1564673) | about 5 years ago | (#29442907)

Well, the sun is not always visible, due to clouds or before sunrise/after sunset. Also I would need to know what time it is to deduce the North from the position of the sun and I don't wear a watch.

And the point is? (-1, Troll)

SeattleGameboy (641456) | about 5 years ago | (#29442293)

Isn't it a well know fact that women don't necessarily have good directional abilities to begin with? What else is new?

I can haz (0, Redundant)

Itninja (937614) | about 5 years ago | (#29442311)

"I had wrong assumptions I didn't know about ... I returned home to Washington DC to find that, far worse than my old haunt San Francisco, my mental map of DC swapped north for west."

.....What?

As the crow flies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442411)

I follow the developments on alternative sensory input devices closely. One of the more remarkable developments is vision through the tongue http://discovermagazine.com/2003/jun/feattongue .. it seems that blind people can failry quickly 'see' their environments where electronic impulses from a camera are transmitted through the brain via the tongue. After some training, these people can actually learn to read, and investigations into the brain show that parts of the vision system indeed retrieve their input from the tongue, a taste organ.

Now, with this compass bracelet, and the compass belt from a couple of years back, it's a different thing. It confuses people since we were never wired in our brains to handle magnetic data. We are visually oriented, and process data for movement from one location to another one nearby. Using a coordinate system is confusing since we people always center the world around ourselves, and this would mean that we constantly have to re-evaluate our world view at every new location.

Some animals do use magnetic fields to navigate their worlds, but are generally not navigating the world plane full of obstacles, but rather fly straight lines through the sky, or swim in the water.

 

A More useful new sense would be... (1)

rcolbert (1631881) | about 5 years ago | (#29442423)

While this is interesting, I think that most people who are aficionados of FPS gaming already have an acutely tuned sense of direction. It is also my understanding that on average men somehow have a far better sense of NSEW than women. Hopefully, that isn't taken as a sexist comment. I really like women. They're pretty.

The new sense I would find more useful is a hormone detector that would warn me about the imminent onset of PMS. Even better would be if this was accompanied by a temporary disability in my jaw muscles that would temporarily prevent me from speaking for up to 72 hours. That would be far more useful. Directions I can get from a GPS. Life saving silence is something I still haven't figured out on my own

Much easier way to do the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29442543)

Get an iPhone 3GS and write a little app that regularly emits a ping sound at eight different frequencies depending on the direction. It's not quite as 'direct', but the brain would figure it out quickly enough. And wearing an earbud is less likely to get you arrested at an airport than a giant vibrating ankle-bracelet with black boxes and wires.

Why not use a compass? (1)

TechnologyResource (1638031) | about 5 years ago | (#29442629)

I believe a compass and a gps will tell you "true north." Why reinvent the wheel?

North Paw (4, Informative)

EricBoyd (532608) | about 5 years ago | (#29442675)

Some friends and I are the creator of the North Paw compass anklet. You can check out our website at sensebridge [sensebridge.net] , or read all of our hack notes on the noisebridge wiki: compass vibro anket [noisebridge.net] . You can purchase North Paw kits from us for $95, and then you don't have to take Quinn's word for what it's like to wear one :-)

Re:North Paw (3, Funny)

joeyblades (785896) | about 5 years ago | (#29443067)

This should complement my House Arrest Ankle Bracelet quite nicely...

Saskatoon (2, Interesting)

Relden (1030180) | about 5 years ago | (#29442765)

I've lived in Southern Ontario most of my life and have a fairly good sense of direction. I usually know where north is.I wonder if this is more a function of memory than an innate ability: if I am a passenger in a car and fall asleep, I'll be lost when I wake up until I see enough visual cues to reestablish my knowledge of where north is. The same happens if I'm driving through a subdivision with lots of curved streets. A couple of decades ago I moved to Saskatoon in western Canada. I was lost. It wasn't the kind of random sense of being lost you get when you move to the new place. My sense of direction was completely reversed. I'd go south instead of north, east instead of west, not east instead of north or south instead of west. One day, I realized that this probably had to do with the rivers. I have usually lived near rivers, in places where I can actually see the river most days. In Southern Ontario, most of the rivers flow north-to-south. In Saskatoon, the river flows south-to-north. I think I had come to use rivers as mnemonic cues for direction. As soon as I realized this, my mental map of Saskatoon reoriented itself and I was never lost again.

ooh (0, Offtopic)

nomadic (141991) | about 5 years ago | (#29442965)

Smision?

L'Efant was an Evil Bastard (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29443017)

i live outside of DC. Driving in that cluster frak is a pain. Street names are confusing, they don't align from block to block, it's not remotely grid like, few places to u-turn. As much as i dislike taking the metro in, driving is just painful.

I've had a similar geographical awakening. (1)

Fallon (33975) | about 5 years ago | (#29443031)

I moved to Colorado Springs about a year ago, and it's done wonders for aligning my landmark based navigation with a compass. All I have to do is look up find the massive mountain range running due North/South that's usually due West of me.

It's really made me much more aware of compass directions. I now give directions based off the compass, rather than left/right.

That's silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29443077)

How's using TOUCH for directional information any different than using a traditional compass and SIGHT for directional information?

Her argument against the device (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 5 years ago | (#29443085)

Mental maps of places aren't like GPS maps. They record limited data to get you from place to place. Knowing that the interstate has a 2 degree kink 57 miles into your trip does nothing but waste brain cycles. Trying to use precision input for our imprecise cognition is a poor coupling.
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