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BrainPort Allows People To Reclaim Damaged Senses

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the thats-just-freaky dept.

Biotech 216

Karma Star writes "There is a news article on a new device called a BrainPort, which is special device that is worn like a helmet, with a strip of tape containing an array of 144 microelectrodes hanging off the headset which is placed on the tongue. The BrainPort then sends signals to the tongue which are then picked up by the brain, allowing the user to regain otherwise lost sensory input. More at the NY Times (soul stealing subscription required)."

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216 comments

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Thats great (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899159)

Can I use it to recover my sense of humour?

Re:Thats great (0)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899301)

Can I use it to recover my sense of humour?

Perhaps, that is until you see your mod score :-)

Re:Thats great (4, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899367)

This will give a whole new meaning for bad taste jokes.

Re:Thats great (1)

plover (150551) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899527)

Especially if you've read Bruce Bethke's book, "Headcrash".

His feedback probe didn't go on the user's tongue...

Re:Thats great (1)

davesplace1 (729794) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899707)

You can only do that reading Slashdot :)

A Special Message From Your "President": (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899908)

Hello. My name is George W. Bush. I was reselected as your 44th "President" of the United Gulags of America.

Will BrainPort let me use Faith, Family, and Values [whitehouse.org] to decrease the ballooning federal deficit; lower
interest rates; and strengthen the faultering U.S. dollar?

Regards,

George W. Bush

Just one question. (5, Funny)

TrollBridge (550878) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899161)

Can I wear it over my tin-foil hat?

Just one additional question. (1)

2names (531755) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899299)

Can they attach it to my...

Nevermind.

Re:Just one question. (1)

Vulcann (752521) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899346)

Wear a wet towel on you're head, eat a few salted peanuts and beer ...and whatever you do, DONT PANIC!

Re:Just one question. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899997)

Can I wear it over my tin-foil hat?

If you're smart enough to already be wearing the tinfoil hat, you should know that this new device is clearly designed for mind-control purposes.

Big deal (5, Funny)

LouCifer (771618) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899168)

Back when I was in highschool, I'd put a little piece of paper on my tounge and in about an hour I'd get the sensation of flight, could "see" sound, speak to animals and the like.

Plus, I didnt have to wear a helmet when I dropped acid.

Confused senses (5, Funny)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899173)

This music tastes Great!

Tastes Great (2, Funny)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899262)

Less filling!

But you'll still be stuck in engineering while a guy with a positronic brain gets all the action.

Re:Confused senses (3, Informative)

igny (716218) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899325)

Synaesthesia [google.com] is quite common actually.

Re:Confused senses (5, Interesting)

mforbes (575538) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899511)

I'm a synaesthete myself, which is why I never tried any of the hallucinogenics-- I was always afraid I'd lose that wonderful crossing of the senses that I so enjoy.

I'm fortunate that my case is very mild; if it hadn't been for a number of conversations in early adolescence where I tried to describe something using adjectives that made perfect sense to me but not to others, I would never have known I'm different. In high school orchestra, most of the other kids could understand when I'd describe the sound of a viola as warm, or a piccolo as cold... but they'd have no idea what I meant when I started describing the grain of the viola sound (looks a lot like highly-polished oak under a tungsten lamp), or the brilliant white light of a b# played in second position on a violin's E string.

I read years ago in the Washington Post about a case of a fellow who was much more severely affected than I. Instead of seeing the sounds overlayed on the 'normal' visual field, and being able to easily distinguish what was seen with the eyes vs what was seen through hearing, his senses were so crosswired that this was no longer possible. The anecdote given in the story was that he stopped to buy something from a street vendor (ice cream, I think). But when the vendor spoke, his voice looked to the synaesthete like charcoal bricks falling out of the guy's mouth. The article said he hadn't been able to eat ice cream (or whatever the food was) since then. Like I said, I'm fortunate. My symptoms are thoroughly enjoyable & have never presented problems like that.

Re:Confused senses (1)

isometrick (817436) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899844)

As a musician and classical violinist I have to wonder why the B# played in second position on the E string differs from 1) the simpler notation of C for the same note as B# or 2) the same C/B# played in third, fourth, or fifth position.

I think a lot of people can associate imagery with music; for what purpose do you think compositions like Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf exist?

I call B.S. on this unless you have a serious complex. I also think that the use of verbiage like "b# played in the second position on a violin's E string" is pure rhetoric to attract attention and/or moderation. Ah, well. Whatever floats your boat.

I challenge you: I'll make some recordings of the same note played different ways, and you have to tell me which version each recording represents. It's kind of like Randi's paranormal challenge. Prove me wrong.

Re:Confused senses (1)

cheese_wallet (88279) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899981)

As a musician and classical violinist I have to wonder why the B# played in second position on the E string differs from 1) the simpler notation of C for the same note as B#

It depends on the key the music is in, right? I mean, yeah, B# and C are the same note, but the notation depends on the key. The key of C# has a B# and the key of F# has an E#, if I'm not mistaken.

I guess with the context of his message, we can't tell if he meant a B# as a part of a song, or by itself.

Re:Confused senses (1)

cheese_wallet (88279) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899847)

but they'd have no idea what I meant when I started describing the grain of the viola sound (looks a lot like highly-polished oak under a tungsten lamp), or the brilliant white light of a b# played in second position on a violin's E string.


At the risk of sounding like the Aspies over on kuro5hin, I'll make the comment that I have had similar experiences. I frequently perceive pain as sound, and sometimes color as well. I do sometimes see a color with certain sounds.

I assumed, and still do, that everyone is like this to some degree. Perhaps not everyone notices though.

Re:Confused senses (1)

eheldreth (751767) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899410)

I tasted music once. Then I came down and havn't touched LSD since.

Re:Confused senses (2, Funny)

sehryan (412731) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899632)

Shhhh...you smell something?

Re:Confused senses (1)

gracenix (803510) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899682)

No, it's less filling...

Re:Confused senses (1)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899812)

But best to avoid bad reviews from fans - they taste awful!

Mmmmm (2, Funny)

skraps (650379) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899174)

This story tastes delicious.

Re:Mmmmm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899340)

Aaargh. Don't look at the sun!

ouch..

Re:Mmmmm (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899371)

You think so? I think the beginning was a bit salty. And the end could have had a bit more curry.

Bug Me Not! (0, Flamebait)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899176)

More at the NY Times (soul stealing subscription required)

For crying out loud, people... Slashdot should be the source of the bugmenot [bugmenot.com] craze. You don't need to worry about subscriptions when you have it. And it has a firefox plugin to make it EVEN EASIER!

Wait... is this just something 'cool' to say, like putting a $ in Microsoft? Cause... in that case... YOUR AN IDIOT. :-P

For crying out loud... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899217)

Wait... is this just something 'cool' to say, like putting a $ in Microsoft? Cause... in that case... YOUR AN IDIOT. :-P

Yes, YOU'RE an idiot.

hmm (-1, Redundant)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899185)

but how does this compare to a tinfoil hat, which i already own?

Yes but (3, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899196)

What if you lost your sense of taste?

Re:Yes but (5, Funny)

mfender9 (725994) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899250)

Well, then you'd just spend your life watching Julia Roberts movies and not worry about it...

Re:Yes but (2, Informative)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899418)

This doesn't use taste, it uses electrical impulses. As long as you still have feeling on your tongue, you're ok. Well, you're not necessarily ok, but you are able to use this apparatus. If you lose feeling in your tongue, this technology has been proven with sensors on subject's backs, chests, and foreheads.

I hope they have a good attorney (2, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899197)

Their Product [nytimes.com]

Prior art? [google.com]

Re:I hope they have a good attorney (1)

clandaith (187570) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899241)

No no no. The prior art that you list is the opposite of what they are striving for.

They want a hat that helps you regain your senses. The prior art you list is a hat that helps you LOSE your senses.

Of course... (1)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899200)

the tinfoil lining is included! For the new ReynoldsHT Extreme X-Wrap XP, you need to pay another $79.95.

bugmenot ff extension (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899209)

NYT Article Text (-1, Redundant)

Girckin (831557) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899224)

New Tools to Help Patients Reclaim Damaged Senses By SANDRA BLAKESLEE Published: November 23, 2004 Cheryl Schiltz vividly recalls the morning she became a wobbler. Seven years ago, recovering from an infection after surgery with the aid of a common antibiotic, she climbed out of bed feeling pretty good. "Then I literally fell to the floor," she said recently. "The whole world started wobbling. When I turned my head, the room tilted. My vision blurred. Even the air felt heavy." The antibiotic, Ms. Schiltz learned, had damaged her vestibular system, the part of the brain that provides visual and gravitational stability. She was forced to quit her job and stay home, clinging to the walls to keep from toppling over. But three years ago, Ms. Schiltz volunteered for an experimental treatment - a fat strip of tape, placed on her tongue, with an array of 144 microelectrodes about the size of a postage stamp. The strip was wired to a kind of carpenter's level, which was mounted on a hard hat that she placed on her head. The level determined her spatial coordinates and sent the information as tiny pulses to her tongue. The apparatus, called a BrainPort, worked beautifully. By "buzzing" her tongue once a day for 20 minutes, keeping the pulses centered, she regained normal vestibular function and was able to balance. Ms. Schiltz and other patients like her are the beneficiaries of an astonishing new technology that allows one set of sensory information to substitute for another in the brain. Using novel electronic aids, vision can be represented on the skin, tongue or through the ears. If the sense of touch is gone from one part of the body, it can be routed to an area where touch sensations are intact. Pilots confused by foggy conditions, in which the horizon disappears, can right their aircraft by monitoring sensations on the tongue or trunk. Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements. Sensory substitution is not new. Touch substitutes for vision when people read Braille. By tapping a cane, a blind person perceives a step, a curb or a puddle of water but is not aware of any sensation in the hand; feeling is experienced at the tip of the cane. But the technology for swapping sensory information is largely the effort of Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a neuroscientist in the University of Wisconsin Medical School's orthopedics and rehabilitation department. More than 30 years ago, Dr. Bach-y-Rita developed the first sensory substitution device, routing visual images, via a head-mounted camera, to electrodes taped to the skin on people's backs. The subjects, he found, could "see" large objects and flickering candles with their backs. The tongue, sensitive and easy to reach, turned out to be an even better place to deliver substitute senses, Dr. Bach-y-Rita said. Until recently sensory substitution was confined to the laboratory. But electronic miniaturization and more powerful computer algorithms are making the technology less cumbersome. Next month, the first fully portable device will be tested in Dr. Bach-y-Rita's lab. The BrainPort is nearing commercialization. Two years ago, the University of Wisconsin patented the concept and exclusively licensed it to Wicab Inc., a company formed by Dr. Bach-y-Rita to develop and market BrainPort devices. Robert Beckman, the company president, said units should be available a year from now. Meanwhile, a handful of clinicians around the world who are using the BrainPort on an experimental basis are effusive about its promise. "I have never seen any other device do what this one does," said Dr. F. Owen Black, an expert on vestibular disorders at the Legacy Clinical Research and Technology Center in Portland, Ore. "Our patients are begging us to continue using the device." Dr. Maurice Ptito, a neuroscientist at University of Montreal School of Optometry, is conducting brain imaging experiments to explore how BrainPort works. Dr. Eliana Sampaio, a neuroscientist at the National Conservatory of Arts and Métiers in Paris, is using the BrainPort to study brain plasticity. Sensory substitution is based on the idea that all sensory information entering the brain consists of patterns carried by nerve fibers. In vision, images of the world pass through the retina and are converted into impulses that travel up the optic nerve into the brain. In hearing, sounds pass through the ear and are converted into patterns carried by the auditory nerve into the brain. In touch, nerve endings on skin translate touch sensations into patterns carried into the brain. These patterns travel to special sensory regions where they are interpreted, with the help of memory, into seeing, hearing and touch. Patterns are also seamlessly combined so that one can see, hear and feel things simultaneously. "We see with the brain, not with the eyes," Dr. Bach-y-Rita said. "You can lose your retina but you do not lose the ability to see as long as your brain is intact." Most important, the brain does not seem to care if patterns come from the eye, ear or skin. Given the proper context, it will interpret and understand them. "For me, it happened automatically, within a few minutes," said Erik Weihenmayer, who has been blind since he was 13. Mr. Weihenmayer, a 35-year-old adventurer who climbed to the summit of Mount Everest two years ago, recently tried another version of the BrainPort, a hard hat carrying a small video camera. Visual information from the camera was translated into pulses that reached his tongue. He found doorways, caught balls rolling toward him and with his small daughter played a game of rock, paper and scissors for the first time in more than 20 years. Mr. Weihenmayer said that, with practice, the substituted sense gets better, "as if the brain were rewiring itself." Ms. Schiltz, too, whose vestibular system was damaged by gentamicin, an inexpensive generic antibiotic used for Gram-negative infections, said that the first few times she used the BrainPort she felt tiny impulses on her tongue but still could not maintain her balance. But one day, after a full 20-minute session with the BrainPort, Ms. Schiltz opened her eyes and felt that something was different. She tilted her head back. The room did not move. "I went running out the door," she recalled. "I danced in the parking lot. I was completely normal. For a whole hour." Then, she said, the problem returned. She tried more sessions. Soon her balance was restored for three hours, then half a day. Now working with the BrainPort team at the University of Wisconsin, Ms. Schiltz wears the tongue unit each morning. Her balance problems are gone as long as she keeps to the regimen. How the device produces a lasting effect is being investigated. The vestibular system instructs the brain about changes in head movement with respect to the pull of gravity. Dr. Bach-y-Rita speculated that in some patients, a tiny amount of vestibular tissue might survive and be reactivated by the BrainPort. Dr. Black said he had seen the same residual effect in his own pilot study. "It decays in hours to days," he said, "but is very encouraging." Blind people who have used the device do not report lasting effects. But they are amazed by what they can see. Mr. Weihenmayer said the device at first felt like candy pop rocks on his tongue. But that sensation quickly gave way to perceptions of size, movement and recognition. Mr. Weihenmayer said that on several occasions he was able to find his wife, who was standing still in an outdoor park, but he admitted that he also once confused her with a tree. Another time, he walked down a sidewalk and almost went off a bridge. Nevertheless, he is enthusiastic about the future of the device. Mr. Weihenmayer likes to paraglide, and he sees the BrainPort as a way to deliver sonar information to his tongue about how far he is from the ground. Dr. Ptito is scanning the brains of congenitally blind people who, wearing the BrainPort, have learned to make out the shapes, learned from Braille, of capital letters like T, B or E. The first few times they wore the device, he said, their visual areas remained dark and inactive - not surprising since they had been blind since birth. But after training, he said, their visual areas lighted up when they used the tongue device. The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Brain. Dr. Ptito says he would like to see if he could teach his subjects how to read drifting letters like those in advertising displays. Not seeing motion is a big problem for the blind, he said. In another approach, Dr. Peter Meijer, a Dutch scientist working independently, has developed a system for blind people to see with their ears. A small device converts signals from a video camera into sound patterns delivered by stereo headset to the ears. Changes in frequency connote up or down. Changes in pixel brightness are sensed as louder or softer sounds. Dr. Yuri Danilov, a neuroscientist and engineer who works with Dr. Bach-y-Rita, said the research team had thought of dozens of applications for the BrainPort, which he called a "USB port to the brain." In one experiment, a leprosy patient who had lost the ability to experience touch with his fingers was outfitted with a glove containing contact sensors. These were coupled to skin on his forehead. Soon he experienced the data coming from the glove on his forehead, as if the feelings originated in his fingertips. He said he cried when he could touch and feel his wife's face. The federal government has also shown interest in sensory substitution technology. The Navy is exploring the use of a tongue device to help divers find their way in dark waters at night, said Dr. Anil Raj, director of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. The sensors detect water surges, informing Navy Seals if they are following the correct course. The Army is thinking about sending infrared signals from night goggles directly to the tongue, Dr. Raj said. In another application, student pilots have been fitted with body sensors attached to aircraft instruments. When the airplane starts to pitch or change altitude, they can feel the movements on their chests. Sensory substitution technology may eventually help millions of people overcome their sensory disabilities. But the devices may also have more frivolous uses: in video games, for example. Dr. Raj said the tongue unit had already been tried out in a game that involved shooting villains. "In two minutes you stop feeling the buzz on your tongue and get a visual representation of the bad guy," he said. "You feel like you have X-ray vision. Unfortunately it makes the game boring."

Re:NYT Article Text (5, Informative)

un1xl0ser (575642) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899329)

For people buy into that paragraph bullshit.

New Tools to Help Patients Reclaim Damaged Senses
By SANDRA BLAKESLEE

Published: November 23, 2004

Cheryl Schiltz vividly recalls the morning she became a wobbler. Seven years ago, recovering from an infection after surgery with the aid of a common antibiotic, she climbed out of bed feeling pretty good.

"Then I literally fell to the floor," she said recently. "The whole world started wobbling. When I turned my head, the room tilted. My vision blurred. Even the air felt heavy."

The antibiotic, Ms. Schiltz learned, had damaged her vestibular system, the part of the brain that provides visual and gravitational stability. She was forced to quit her job and stay home, clinging to the walls to keep from toppling over.

But three years ago, Ms. Schiltz volunteered for an experimental treatment - a fat strip of tape, placed on her tongue, with an array of 144 microelectrodes about the size of a postage stamp. The strip was wired to a kind of carpenter's level, which was mounted on a hard hat that she placed on her head. The level determined her spatial coordinates and sent the information as tiny pulses to her tongue.

The apparatus, called a BrainPort, worked beautifully. By "buzzing" her tongue once a day for 20 minutes, keeping the pulses centered, she regained normal vestibular function and was able to balance.

Ms. Schiltz and other patients like her are the beneficiaries of an astonishing new technology that allows one set of sensory information to substitute for another in the brain.

Using novel electronic aids, vision can be represented on the skin, tongue or through the ears. If the sense of touch is gone from one part of the body, it can be routed to an area where touch sensations are intact. Pilots confused by foggy conditions, in which the horizon disappears, can right their aircraft by monitoring sensations on the tongue or trunk. Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements.

Sensory substitution is not new. Touch substitutes for vision when people read Braille. By tapping a cane, a blind person perceives a step, a curb or a puddle of water but is not aware of any sensation in the hand; feeling is experienced at the tip of the cane.

But the technology for swapping sensory information is largely the effort of Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a neuroscientist in the University of Wisconsin Medical School's orthopedics and rehabilitation department. More than 30 years ago, Dr. Bach-y-Rita developed the first sensory substitution device, routing visual images, via a head-mounted camera, to electrodes taped to the skin on people's backs. The subjects, he found, could "see" large objects and flickering candles with their backs. The tongue, sensitive and easy to reach, turned out to be an even better place to deliver substitute senses, Dr. Bach-y-Rita said.

Until recently sensory substitution was confined to the laboratory. But electronic miniaturization and more powerful computer algorithms are making the technology less cumbersome. Next month, the first fully portable device will be tested in Dr. Bach-y-Rita's lab.

The BrainPort is nearing commercialization. Two years ago, the University of Wisconsin patented the concept and exclusively licensed it to Wicab Inc., a company formed by Dr. Bach-y-Rita to develop and market BrainPort devices. Robert Beckman, the company president, said units should be available a year from now.

Meanwhile, a handful of clinicians around the world who are using the BrainPort on an experimental basis are effusive about its promise.

"I have never seen any other device do what this one does," said Dr. F. Owen Black, an expert on vestibular disorders at the Legacy Clinical Research and Technology Center in Portland, Ore. "Our patients are begging us to continue using the device."

Dr. Maurice Ptito, a neuroscientist at University of Montreal School of Optometry, is conducting brain imaging experiments to explore how BrainPort works.

Dr. Eliana Sampaio, a neuroscientist at the National Conservatory of Arts and Métiers in Paris, is using the BrainPort to study brain plasticity. Sensory substitution is based on the idea that all sensory information entering the brain consists of patterns carried by nerve fibers.

Re:NYT Article Text (5, Insightful)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899546)

By tapping a cane, a blind person perceives a step, a curb or a puddle of water but is not aware of any sensation in the hand; feeling is experienced at the tip of the cane. IME, the reverse is also true - when riding my motorbike, I'm not aware of pushing on the handlebars, shifting weight etc - I just think where I want it to go and it does.

Re:NYT Article Text (3, Interesting)

shawb (16347) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899861)

Similar to changing gears in a car. You don't sit there and think okay, the car is now in third gear, I must engage the clutch and then switch to fourth gear. The conscious mental process is just "upshift" and the body does the rest (or at least subcounscious portions of the nervous system.)

Same thing with writing and typing. I usually don't even think of the individual letters that I need to put down. I don't even deliberate over the words that I use. I just kinda think of the topic, and then my fingers move. When I want, I can then enact tighter control by switching my focus.

In fact, when typing, I usually don't even notice the keyboard, or most of the OS. Right now I guess I am thinking about interacting with this little box, not even noticing the rest of the page.

Sure, you get your senses back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899225)

But you need to walk around wearing a helmet and have shit in your tongue. I'm all for the progress of science, but you're making these people look like they just returned from a mission to Neptune or something.

Not to troll, just an observation.

Re:Sure, you get your senses back (1)

Bellyflop (681305) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899448)

I think a lot of blind people would prefer being forced to wear a funny helmet and be able to see to being blind. Sounds like a great deal, especially since it doesn't seem to require any sort of exotic surgery.

This reminds me... (2, Funny)

mark-t (151149) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899226)

The textual description of this... "The strip was wired to a kind of carpenter's level, which was mounted on a hard hat that she placed on her head...". for some reason, the image that unavoidably comes to mind is that of Doctor Who's classic Cybermen.

Re:This reminds me... (2, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899440)

You're lucky. The images this reminds me of are more like Mr. Garrison's "Segway" invention (on South Park, just before the release of the "real" Segway.)

It was controlled by a "probe".

Already exists (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899235)

A two-electrode version of this device exists in the form of licking 9V batteries, to give users the sense of whether 9V batteries are dead. It also works to test the main I hear...

Re:Already exists (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899428)

It tastes like... burning.

Re:Already exists (2, Interesting)

skraps (650379) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899433)

Apparently, people have had these things for a long time.
  • "This program is sweet"
  • "You are a very bitter person"
  • "Your work is tasteless"

Taste (3, Interesting)

jedaustin (52181) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899239)

What if Im missing my sense of taste?

Im sure having some gadget sticking in your mouth and a huge helmet on your head would make you a hit with the ladies too!

Seriously though.. I could see applications for this.
Picture this:
Fighter helmet with mouth piece that sits against the pilots tongue. When the computer detects a threat it can stimulate the pilots tongue in relation to the direction and distance of the target. After a little training this sort of thing would really increase reaction time.
Though it would make a conversation with the tower a bit tough :)

Re:Taste (3, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899443)

When the computer detects a threat it can stimulate the pilots tongue in relation to the direction and distance of the target.

What would it taste of?

Normal day: "Mmmmmmm beer"

Real emergency: "EWWWWW SPROUTS!!! GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

Re:Taste (0, Troll)

CheechBG (247105) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899463)

I don't usually troll, but that is the stupidest idea I have never heard.

Re:Taste (-1, Redundant)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899473)

See

Re:Taste (1)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899525)

Damnit - that should have read "See here [slashdot.org]

Re:Taste (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899570)

> Picture this:
>
> Fighter helmet with mouth piece that sits against the pilots tongue. When the computer detects a threat it can stimulate the pilots tongue in relation to the direction and distance of the target. After a little training this sort of thing would really increase reaction time.
>
> Though it would make a conversation with the tower a bit tough :)

You must taste... in Russian!

In Thoviat Rutthia, Firefoth flieth thoo? [imdb.com]

"Thyre rearwurdth mitthile, dammit!"
[nothing happens]
"Mmmmm.... Borscht!"
[*KABOOM*, second Firefox burninated]
"Better ithe up a cold one boyth, I'th comin' home!"

Re:Taste (1)

thebudgie (810919) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899731)

Don't know about you, but if I were a fighter pilot I'd be looking to decrease my reaction time ;-)

Re:Taste (1)

IceAgeComing (636874) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899848)

The device supplies vibrational feedback. Basically, if there is an oval object in front of the viewer, an oval-shaped buzzing is felt on the tongue. The tongue is apparently sensitive enough to distinguish from a 20x20 array of pixels.

Helmet (0)

ValuJet (587148) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899247)

Is it a hockey helmet?

Re:Helmet (1)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899470)

<GBS>Don't ever trust a fellow with a helmet on his head.</GBS>

RTFA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899258)

All these tinfoil hat jokes are great and never get old, but maybe you should read the article.

Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899289)

I for one welcome our Jamie Oliver overlord.

The only problem with this (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899291)

Everything either feels, tastes, or smells like chicken.

Re:The only problem with this (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899351)

Everything either feels, tastes, or smells like chicken.

Dude, we DON'T want to hear about your porn preferences

Re:The only problem with this (4, Funny)

igny (716218) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899376)

Some people also sound, look and post like chicken.

Oh dear (2, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899331)

From the article:

Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements.

A whole new range of experiences for surgeons performing coloscopies, no doubt.

Re:Oh dear (1)

Tap-Sa (644107) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899655)

in the news soon: 'BrainPorted' specula becomes a huge hit among male gynecologists. Reports indicate customers like it too...

I alwedy haf one of fese. (4, Funny)

eric2hill (33085) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899350)

Fey work gweaf an I can feel ftuff I nefer fought I could!

Summary: sensory substitution (4, Informative)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899363)

Here's a basic summary, in case the site gets slashdotted or in case you lost your senses of reading:

The method used is called sensory substitution.
That is, one sense can be used to emulate the input that is usually provided by another sense. The tongue is one of the best places for input.

You have to wear the substitution device for it to work, although it is speculated that by training the brain areas for the lost sense, the working of that area can be improved, so it just might help restore a sense in the situation where the organ not working is parts of the brain.

I'd like to add that I heard blind people can go mad when you try to feed them visual stimuli through the eye nerves, probably because these brain parts have taken on other roles. I'd therefore like to suggest that babies born blind are provided with artificial visual stimuli, so that this part of the brain learns to work and can later operate fully, when there is the technology to provide fully working artificial eyes.

Re:Summary: sensory substitution (1)

lobsterGun (415085) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899442)

I'd like to add that I heard blind people can go mad when you try to feed them visual stimuli through the eye nerves...


This is incorrect. Research has shown that the optic nerve can be directly stimulated to produce simple images.

On a related note, direct overstimulation of the optic nerve can result in siezures. This may be what you heard.

Biological Screen Saver? (1)

koa (95614) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899625)

So, in essence, you are proposing that humans born with no vision should be given the equivilant of a "screen saver" so that their visual centers of the brain to dont atrofy? Would this not inhibbit their ability to overdevelop their other senses (i.e. touch, hearing etc.) to compensate?

Bad idea methinks.

Re:Summary: sensory substitution (0, Flamebait)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899893)

I'd like to add that I heard blind people can go mad when you try to feed them visual stimuli through the eye nerves, probably because these brain parts have taken on other roles.

The occipital lobe (visual cortex) in congenitally blind people is used for other purposes. Dunno what the hell you mean by "go mad", but I also doubt that those implants would work for them like it would for someone who loses sight as an adult.

I'd therefore like to suggest that babies born blind are provided with artificial visual stimuli, so that this part of the brain learns to work and can later operate fully, when there is the technology to provide fully working artificial eyes.

Congenitally blind people use their occipital lobe for other purposes. Somehow I don't think we're anywhere near figuring out a better use for it. Your idea is colossally stupid.

Good technology looking for a home? (3, Insightful)

FluffyPanda (821763) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899365)

It seems like a great breakthrough for the poor woman who lost her sense of balance, but the suggested uses?

Pilots confused by foggy conditions, in which the horizon disappears, can right their aircraft by monitoring sensations on the tongue or trunk. Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements

Sounds to me like an able bodied pilot or surgeon could just use the senses they already use. The pilot could still use the visual readout of the artificial horizon for example.

Is this really destined for common usage?

Re:Good technology looking for a home? (1)

nospmiS remoH (714998) | more than 9 years ago | (#10900014)

Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements

So one sneeze by the surgeon and the poor patients liver is made into pate?

BugMeNot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899372)

soul stealing subscription required

http://bugmenot.com/ [bugmenot.com]

You just know.... (4, Funny)

leereyno (32197) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899384)

That someone is going to apply this to their nether-regions, if they haven't already.

Re:You just know.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899644)

You could have sex with everyone you see and they'd never know it. Sweet.

Great but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899395)

Instead of on the tounge, can we stick the pad to.. uhmm.. other places?

Ralph says (4, Funny)

WoodenRobot (726910) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899401)

"It tastes like ... burning"

I for one.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899405)

welcom our new microelectrode helmet wearing overlords.....

ooohh...

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these...

Or the obligatory....

In Soviet Russia, microelectrode helmets wear you!

sorry.....couldn't resist

Eyes in the back of my head (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899429)

So could you put a a camera on and face it backwards ? you could have eyes in the back of your head... but wouldent that get in the way of your current vision ?

What's next.....? (1)

invisik (227250) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899431)

The latest product from the makers of Viagra....

-m

More info (3, Informative)

Sai Babu (827212) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899472)

Older version of tongue interface [sciencenews.org] .

University of Montreal news release [sciencedaily.com]

But wait, there's more cooler brain interfacing going on! Mystic Visions [nwbotanicals.org]

I see, in the very near future, big wads of $100 bills moving into my pocket from users of the APE(TM) helmet. A Psychedelic Experience! Users don the APE helmet and the core moderating frequencies of the brain are modulated to produce everything from the mystic experience (sans the nasty side effects of peyote, psylocibin, or X) to a full blown emulation of a trip on the finest of Dr. Hofmann's [isyours.com] concotions.

Franchise options available NOW!

Sensory Prosthetics (3, Insightful)

delta_avi_delta (813412) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899480)

I hope that this leads the way to sensory prosthetics. People are looking into ways to directly control prosthetics using signals from the brain, but a major difficulty for people with prosthetics is how to use a limb that has no sensory output whatsoever. Anyone who has ever had their leg "fall asleep" on them, and tried to walk it off will begin to appreciate the difficulties involved.

Obvious Application (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899505)

Adult industry. Movie comes with sensory data - now you can feel the action!

Smellovision (1)

TheLoneCabbage (323135) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899530)


You realize of course that this puts us one step closer to Smell-O-Vision.

Of course the pottential for abuse seems even greater with Taste-O-Vision.

Old? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899539)

Wasn't this article in wired like 100 years ago?

She lucky (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899541)

Cheryl Schiltz vividly recalls the morning she became a wobbler

I have become a wobbler many times, or so I am told, usually after a large intake of Guinness and JD. Unfortunately however I am never able to remember this world turns wobbly point.

This could help the trolls (1)

oexeo (816786) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899550)

> BrainPort Allows People To Reclaim Damaged Senses

Can it give slashdot trolls their sense of dignity back?

This sounds familure... (2, Funny)

east coast (590680) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899551)

Something about the size of a postage stamp, put on the tounge, and it brgins back lost sensations? I think Timothy Leary was heading down this very path a few years back...

Buckaroo Banzai (3, Funny)

LooseCannon74502181 (665816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899567)

The writers from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension should sue for stolen IP. Lizardo was using that thing 20 years ago.

oh brother (0, Offtopic)

n3tfury (774147) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899591)

:\ @ the one-liners. most of you dopes aren't even close to being funny. why you don't realize this, i don't know. peasants.

The NY Times needs this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899646)

new device called a BrainPort, which is special device that is worn like a helmet, with a strip of tape containing an array of 144 microelectrodes hanging off the headset which is placed on the tongue. The BrainPort then sends signals to the tongue which are then picked up by the brain, allowing the user to regain otherwise lost sensory input. More at the NY Times

Maybe the Times Editorial section can use this thing AS a brain and they will become conservatives.

Great for Pickups (1)

syntap (242090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899704)

Now I can finally see better around the bar when I'm trying to pick up hawt girls. I'm sure they'll love the hat!

The snozberries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899749)

The snozberries taste like snozberries!

"friendly" robots... (1)

confucio-licious (555476) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899759)

Here's one for you...Gay robots; products of their own virtual evolution, or the natural result of the fact that robot-vaginas haven't been invented yet?

Danger of choking to death? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899775)

Problem with putting stuff in your mouth is choking on it.

They even mentioned military use. Imagine colliding into something and choking to death on the gizmo.

Why don't they just stick the stuff into a suitable part of the brain and let the brain figure it out? Yah I know the brain moves around, let the thing move and flex around with the brain too then - and make it the same density as the brain tissue.

I was actually thinking about this more than 10 years ago - but then I was thinking it'd work if you put it into kids when they are very young so their brains can learn how to use it (and thus they get one or two s-video/VGA ports :) ). I assumed that adult brains would not be flexible enough.

But from these research it seems like even adult brains are quite flexible!

Re:Danger of choking to death? (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899916)

The big problem with just "sticking the stuff into a suitable part of the brain" (besides the question of whether or not the brain would figure it out) is that you're massively increasing the risk of dangerous infections.

Re:Danger of choking to death? (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 9 years ago | (#10900001)

Heh, there's another obvious place to attach these devices... Just as sensitive, not needed for eating. Having the candy striper or nurse attach the device would be fun (or the doctor, if that's your thing). The only problem will be the loud gasps of excitement from the wearers when some visual stimulus appears (say a big red truck or a rainbow). You'll appear sensitive because you'll with excitement when a baby screams kick off the sensors...

SciFi predates real-life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10899822)

But the technology for swapping sensory information is largely the effort of Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a neuroscientist in the University of Wisconsin Medical School's orthopedics and rehabilitation department. More than 30 years ago, Dr. Bach-y-Rita developed the first sensory substitution device, routing visual images, via a head-mounted camera, to electrodes taped to the skin on people's backs.

He probably watched that episode of Star Trek from the 1960's where that blind woman (who, of course, fell in love with Kirk) was wearing a dress that let her feel her surroundings.

This is just the first step (1)

parcifal (812729) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899920)

Well, it does seem like a good first step. Although the equipment might be clunky, it will eventually be miniaturized (with smaller electrodes etc) and hence be more palatable to users.
Identifying areas of the brain where activity occurs in response to a particular stimulus is in itself a big thing, which will help us build devices for people with neural problems (think quadriplegics...)
Sometime in the next decade, we should see a more integrated brain-machine interface for performing all the things we take for granted, but are impossible for affected people.

The electrodes on the tongue (2, Funny)

multiplexo (27356) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899934)

work better to restore a sense of vision than do earlier attempts to restore the sense of taste by dripping Tabasco [tabasco.com] into people's eyeballs.

Great for touch, low resolution inputs, but sight? (0)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 9 years ago | (#10899943)

The idea of this is great but the problem here is with precision. Balance is a pretty easy signal to process but with sight, they're trying to send uncompressed, massive resolution video signals through the tongue! Your tongue isn't that sensitive. Sure, you'll be able to make out some basic shapes with practice but a little vision is a bit more dangerous than none. Mr. Magoo anyone?
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