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Hacking Our Five Senses

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the still-waiting-for-a-eyeball-based-hud-thanks dept.

Input Devices 232

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

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232 comments

I am not so sure I would want (4, Funny)

willie_nelsons_pigta (1006979) | more than 7 years ago | (#18588967)

I am not so sure I would want other parts of my body seeing. A finger in my nose may not be the most pleasant thing to look at.

Re:I am not so sure I would want (2, Funny)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589157)

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

Re:I am not so sure I would want (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589237)

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

Down front? Yeah, that's the stylus. It improves productivity by enticing at least 50% of the workforce to use it often and requires no additional training. The developers thought of outfitting it with a laser, but were afraid of it blinding attendants during so-called money shots.

Driver crash! (2, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589383)

Would you like the large dump or the small dump? Where do you want to save it?

Re:I am not so sure I would want (5, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589375)

It's not so much that...One of the one's I found most interesting in the series was a kind of belt device that vibrated constantly on the side that faced magnetic north...Like having a dozen cellphones strapped to your belt, where whichever one is on the north side of your body vibrates.

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

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

It's some cool stuff, and it definitely opens up some possibility for some interesting sensory "prosthesis" to give information that isn't processed by our natural senses.

Re:I am not so sure I would want (0, Redundant)

Frozen Void (831218) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589793)

That guy could be considered a cyborg(with the belt an integral part).

Re:I am not so sure I would want (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589913)

It's not new in any way. Prof. Steve Mann from the U of Toronto has been a "cyborg" for over 10 years now. His research into wearable computing has gone way past what these guys are talking about. not log ago he removed his gear and had a complete breakdown. Not having hid database and other sensory enhancements he had built in and became reliant on has a big drawback from what he discovered in his research.

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

I strongly reading his research papers for anyne interested in this technology and subject.

I would So want (1)

EgoWumpus (638704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590313)

I think that is the perfect example of the programming interface-like potential of our senses. Video games are another great example: where an 'user interface' is designed to transmit data that may not have much to do with the actual physicality of a thing. For that matter, all visual representations use the sense of sight to piggy-back additional data. Where this ought to go, though, is towards creating different paradigms that people can learn to operate their senses in; using their sense of touch, for instance, to get directional information, or to get proximity information (imagine a real-life device that gets hotter or colder the closer or further respectively you get from the target), or any number of other things. Learning different paradigms would be different at first, but we all learn to switch 'modes' in any number of different areas; balance while riding a bike versus while walking, using a Mac or a PC (wait... there are people who use both?), talking in one language or another. With the explosion of data that we are able to gather and process externally, this seems like a necessary step towards bridging the synthesis gap.

Re:I am not so sure I would want (1)

oringo (848629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590433)

I can't believe the amount of interest given to this guy's "science" project. That kind of device and the intuition developed through it had been invented by ancient Chinese 2000 years ago. It's called "compass"!

The human brain (4, Informative)

vivin (671928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589399)

The human brain is pretty plastic. It can adapt to a lot of new conditions. In patients who are recently blind, or even in people who have been blindfolded for a while, the sense of touch and sound is amplified. Areas of the brain that were used for vision, are now used to interpret sound and touch. PET shows which parts of the brain are active. Check out Phantoms in the Brain [amazon.com] and . [amazon.com]

Re:I am not so sure I would want (1)

rlanctot (310750) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590193)

...or smelling. Going to the bathroom would take on a WHOLE 'nother dimension entirely =(.

Re:I am not so sure I would want (1)

Mousit (646085) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590551)

On the other hand, just think of the opposite direction: using your sense of sight to feel things.

Imagine the boon to the porn industry!

Some of this has been done naturally. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18590587)

This is totally something you just can't understand unless you've experienced it yourself. Taking 3 hits of great acid or a bag of psychedelic mushrooms can make a lot of this happen naturally. I'm not talking about taking these and going out to party for a night. I'm talking about closing your eyes for hours while listening to music or camping in the woods. I closed my eyes and held on to a dog's leash while under the influence and he dragged me to my buddy who was almost a 1/2 mile away. It's no big deal that the dog brought me, it's the fact that while my eyes were closed, I could sense objects through the leash/ movements about what was around me. It was like I was seeing through the dog. Same night while listening to music.. with my eyes closed I was watching the notes dance and could define their color. Psychedelics are very very powerful and can misused easily. But with the correct time and place... it can change your world forever. Timothy Leary was all about rewiring your brain through psycedelics. He knew the potential. The research has been done. http://www.leary.com/ [leary.com]

Makings of a Superhero! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18588983)

Sounds cool! Uber-sensory mechanical integration should be cool. Although, what happens when the system fails?

Can in simulate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589005)

the feelings of having sex while I'm zoned out on the couch eating Cheetos? If so, sign me up!

Re:Can in simulate (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589365)

Because that would be so much better than actually having sex? I'll take reality thank you.

Re:Can in simulate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589555)

It could be, depending on the historical intake of "Cheetos" of you and your partner. Certainly that of your partner at the very least.

Re:Can in simulate (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589593)

that was the wrong two alternatives in the original post. The right choice would be between goofing off at work posting on slashdot compared to goofing off at work having realistic virtual sex.

the real 6th sense (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589011)

Everyone knows the real sixth sense is being able to close your eyes and eat an M&M and be able to tell what color it was. But I think this has been around for a long time. I mean, when I just know where the unique boss monster spawned in SRO, that's some metaphysical stuff right there.

I've Got It (1, Funny)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589025)

Reverse car sensors connected to an Ass-Kicking-Driver's-Seat

Seriously, not such a bad idea. (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589665)

You're joking, but I could see some applications of this in cars.

For example, right now there are a lot of cars with sonar sensors to aid in back-in parking. Rather than turning that into audible output that requires a lot of processing to make sense of ("three feet ... two feet ... " or even "beep...beep..beep..beepbeepbeeeep") you could wire it to an output device that uses some of the driver's unused senses.

Many cars also have inflatable air bladders located in the back of the driver's seat, for lumbar support. Imagine if we connected the parking sensor to the lumbar support, so that as you backed the car in, you'd feel pressure against your back as you got closer and closer to the obstacle. (You'd still want an alarm when you got too close, something that triggered the brain's "abrupt onset" threat response.)

A more complicated system might use multiple bladders, one in the center of the back and smaller ones on either side, to let the driver know approximately how close they are to the car in back, and to the curb, when parallel parking.

Such a system would probably require minimal training and be quick to subliminalize, because it's pretty close to what we experience naturally. (If you're carrying a heavy box and walking backwards, and you feel something contact your back or the back of your legs, even lightly, you're going to immediately stop moving.)

I hope that this research leads to new kinds of output devices that use more of the brain than today's systems, which tend to present everything as predominantly visual, with a smattering of auditory, data.

Re:Seriously, not such a bad idea. (1)

partenon (749418) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590589)

Do you (or anyone in the world) really needs this to *park a car* ?? I mean, tech is cool, but c'mon...

Re:I've Got It (1)

rdmiller3 (29465) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589847)

Reverse car sensors connected to an Ass-Kicking-Driver's-Seat

Actually, I think you've got something there. Although people likely won't adopt bulky extra-sensory gadgets to wear around all the time, I bet they could be installed in vehicles with more success.

Your reverse car sensor could be translated to a row of buzzers against the back or under a thigh. The seatbelt could have that direction-sense built into it.

I think an interesting experiment would be to find out whether someone could adapt to seeing both ahead and behind by combining their eyes with a rear-view camera to something like that tongue-display device. If it were installed in a vehicle, the problem of a bulky system wouldn't even be an issue.

Related (4, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589039)

"Sense-hacking" seems like a very fun, interesting pursuit. I recently learned that humans can be trained to echolocate. Wiki article [wikipedia.org] . That looks like a historical example of what they're trying to do -- get the hearing inputs tuned so that you can "sense" the location of nearby objects because your brain transforms that echo into location data.

Re:Related (3, Interesting)

MyDixieWrecked (548719) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589475)

That reminds me of an article I submitted to slashdot a few years back. A guy had implanted magnets in his fingertips and he could use that to sense other magnets and metallic objects. He said that he was surprised when he was able to detect where the motor was inside an electric can-opener just by putting his fingers close to it.

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

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

It was quite an amazing concept.

Wouldn't that be just as 'bad' as the real thing? (4, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589817)

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

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

I suspect, that if such a technology were available, that "recordings" of people doing drugs would quickly become just as illicit as the drugs themselves, because they'd be just as addictive. (Although, it's not as though the drug laws in the U.S. have ever had any real correlation to harm, so it might matter more who was making money by selling said recordings and how many Senators they owned.) There are quite a few novels that I've read where the idea of addictive neuro-stimulus was discussed; off the top of my head I think it comes up in Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and the Otherland series by Tad Williams.

Re:Wouldn't that be just as 'bad' as the real thin (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590121)

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

Not just that, I don't think you can "wipe" your brain's "RAM" as easily as you can on a computer. :-P

Re:Wouldn't that be just as 'bad' as the real thin (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590261)

There are quite a few novels that I've read where the idea of addictive neuro-stimulus was discussed; off the top of my head I think it comes up in Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and the Otherland series by Tad Williams.
It's big in the Ringworld series as well. IIRC, in the second book Louis Wu is a current addict - they called it wirehead or something. In that case it's nothing more complicated than a trickle current applied to the pleasure center in the brain.

Re:Wouldn't that be just as 'bad' as the real thin (1)

MyDixieWrecked (548719) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590339)

well, the idea in the book was that you plug in and you experience all 5 senses that the person experienced in the same way. There were methods that people used by re-recording the output of someone experiencing another recording, like recording someone eating a cheeseburger, then have someone who hasn't eaten in a week experience that recording and re-output it, thereby making the cheeseburger so much more enjoyable.

The book goes for pages and pages explaining the process. I believe there's an entire chapter or two on it. You should read the book when it comes out (I had a pre-release copy). I must say it's one of the best I've read.

Re:Wouldn't that be just as 'bad' as the real thin (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590719)

I should point out that heroin doesn't merely cause chemicals in your brain to change. Heroin replaces certain chemicals in your brain, stimulating mu-opioid receptors. That causes the number of mu-opioid receptors in the brain to increase, and I believe it also decreases production of natural opioids. Hallucinogenic/psychadelic drugs aren't generally addictive, so that likely wouldn't be a problem with stored trips either.

Re:Related (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589863)

Strange, I've got what I consider a good sense of direction, but when I go somewhere new (say, Minnesota for thanksgiving with the family), I get *very* disoriented as to direction until I see the sun. Once that is done, I got my orientation back. Sucks to go North and have it be very overcast/nasty/grey for a few days non-stop....

Re:Related (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590655)

That reminds me of an article I submitted to slashdot a few years back. A guy had implanted magnets in his fingertips and he could use that to sense other magnets and metallic objects. He said that he was surprised when he was able to detect where the motor was inside an electric can-opener just by putting his fingers close to it.

I don't have the link immediately available, but that story ended badly. His body ended up rejecting the magnet implants and they ended up breaking up in his fingers, the pictures on his website looked really bad, like his finger-tips were rotting off.

mmmmm (2, Funny)

spooje (582773) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589067)

So what does blue taste like?

Re:mmmmm (4, Funny)

Gwala (309968) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589101)

Chicken.

Re:mmmmm (2, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589133)

Are you trying to be funny, or are you talking about Synesthesia [wikipedia.org]

Re:mmmmm (1)

SighKoPath (956085) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589329)

I don't know, but to follow up, will "tasting" a hyperintelligent shade of blue make one more intelligent?

Re:mmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589989)

Smurfs?

Re:mmmmm (1)

hayden_l (703045) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590491)

I've always found Smurfs a little too crunchy for my tastes but to each their own.

Humans assimilating technology (1)

Fish Feet (1083625) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589079)

The human body is an amazing thing. We have been adding all sorts of wierd things to people without undertsanding exactly how these prosthetics are assimilated into their sensory system, they just are.

See taste (4, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589083)

There was a short blurb in Science News a couple months back about how an electrode array when placed on the tongue gave the participants a sense of sight. The electrode used the tongue to send impulses similar enough to visual signals for volunteers to discern a 3x3 matrix of on/off dots. Pretty cool stuff, though I'd pay dearly for infravision and/or ultrasound augmentation.
-nB

Re:See taste (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589139)

I think I saw that same article. They mentioned one of the possible uses was with SEALs: the device could operate along with scuba gear to give the SEAL a kind of heads-up display underwater, allowing them to navigate more easily at night or in murky conditions.

Re:See taste (1)

glueball (232492) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589363)

That's Dr. Bach-y-Rita's device from Madison, WI. It's a little bigger than 3x3.

Re:See taste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589651)

You could pay $3 to $5 and take some LSD. It's quite a bit cheaper, somewhat safe, and after 15 hours or so you're back to normal. You still get to see w/your tongue or hear with your eyes or laugh hysterically while wondering why your gum feels like a snake in your mouth :)

Re:See taste (1)

partenon (749418) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590629)

And if you call in the next 5 minutes, we'll send you flashbacks for your entire life for free!!

See TFA (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589851)

I don't know about in the online version, but that's one of the things discussed in the print edition of the Wired article. It's in this month's issue. (Look for the 'removable clothing' naked girl on the cover.)

Remember the experiment? (5, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589103)

There was an experiment where people wore goggles that made everything upside-down and reversed left-to-right. After about 6 weeks (IIRC) wearing them, suddenly the test subjects woke up one morning and could see everything normally. When the goggles were then removed, they saw everything upside-down and reversed for another 6 weeks. So changing the brains sensory processing is definitely possible.

Re:Remember the experiment? (1)

thygrrr (765730) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589167)

Actually, it doesn't take that long AT ALL.

The scientist who first did this did it very rigorously: Seal his sleeping room 100% to make sure he sees nothing in the morning before he picks up his inversion goggles.

He was able to ride a bike fine, and even went skiing after a fairly short time (definitely less than 6 weeks - I'd say a few days at most!).

On that skiing trip, he even rescued (while wearing the goggles) another scientist who was injured in an accident, ironically that scientist was one of those who ridiculed him the most and didn't believe he could go ski with a contraption like this twisting his senses.

It was, AFAIK, only an upside-down projection of the world he was looking at, though.

Re:Remember the experiment? (3, Informative)

symes (835608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589335)

That would be Steve Mann [wikipedia.org] . AFAIK - he once wired up a radar to assist his bike rides.

Re:Remember the experiment? (5, Informative)

mykdavies (1369) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589339)

http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/mar97/8589845 31.Ns.r.html [madsci.org]

"The upside-down glasses that you describe were first investigated by George Stratton in the 1890s. Since the image that the retina of our eye sees is inverted, he wanted to explore the effect of presenting the retina an upright image. He reported several experiments with a lens system that inverted images both vertically and horizontally. He initially wore the glasses over both eyes but found it too stressful, so he decided to wear a special reversing telescope over one eye and keep the other one covered.

"In his first experiment, he wore the reversing telescope for twenty-one hours. However, his world only occasionally looked normal so he ran another experiment where he wore it for eight days in a row. On the fourth day, things seemed to be upright rather than inverted. On the fifth day, he was able to walk around his house fairly normally but he found that if he looked at objects very carefully, they again seemed to be inverted. On the whole, Stratton reported that his environment never really felt normal especially his body parts, although it was difficult to describe exactly how he felt. He also found that after removing the reversing lenses, it took several hours for his vision to return to normal."

The link has references to the source material.

B0Rg Country (2, Funny)

Finger$lut (1083627) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589111)

With integrated GPS we would always know where we are and where to go. We could use an AI integrated with our accumulated knowledge to be that "voice in our head" with all of the right answers. We could use our own wifi to be an ad hoc network to communicate, plan and execute with unity. We can't stop here, this is B0rg country.

Re:B0Rg Country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589617)

We can't stop here, this is B0rg country.

No, don't stop there. Ultimately all we the sensations experience and reason about passes through our brains, so why take the long road? If the brain can handle the bandwidth, just connect it directly [aleph.se] .

Now there's Borg for ya!

Lots of possibilites (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590007)

There are a lot of possibilities once you get the output devices small enough to be comfortably worn by an average person for extended amounts of time.

Back before Bluetooth headsets became common and it became (borderline) socially acceptable for people to walk around looking like they fell out of a Star Trek episode, I always thought that there would be serious cyborg possibilities if you could come up with a very small, preferably implantable, earphone that a person could wear continuously. With the source apparatus somewhere else on your body, you'd be able to get a constant stream of information presented to you without an observer being any the wiser.

I always thought that an AM crystal radio, operating on some longwave frequency with the human body as the conductor, would be the way to go. All you'd need would be something in the ear to translate the RF into vibration (piezoelectric?), and by using a crystal transceiver you wouldn't need batteries. (Of course...being around lightning or anything else that sparks could get painful.) You'd probably be talking about something the size of a grain of rice without the antenna.

This was all back before I'd ever seen the actual chip that lies at the center of an RFID tag; now, I suspect, you could have some pretty intelligent active electronics inside something the size of a rice grain, and eliminate many of the problems inherent in having your power and signal on the same frequency (as is the case with AM going into a crystal radio).

I think it's entirely possible that in a generation, perhaps less, people will look back on dangling earbud wires (or even earbuds that you have to continually insert and remove) as comically antiquated.

Not very new... (4, Insightful)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589135)

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

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

Re:Not very new... (2, Informative)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589233)

Agreed. The only novelty about the methods in TFA seems to be that they are translating data to tactile rather than visual information, but when it all comes down to it this doesn't seem much more "hacking the five senses" than a pocket compass translating physical orientation into visual data.

Not very old, either... (1)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589277)

The article does - kind of. Unfortuately, it doesn't go far past vibrating pads and tongue-arrays. (And yes, the world-flipping goggles.) However, those technologies haven't been around too long. AFAIK, people weren't doing those kinds of experiments before the sixties.

I suppose the difference between the stuff the article talks about and your "radio" example is in the personalization - there's a difference between a radio in the room and a radio only you can hear.

Re:Not very new... (2, Insightful)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590573)

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

Yes, we're aware that when the article talks about things we've done in the past, that they're not new. Please don't complain about the last few sentences in the story as if they're the only thing that got said.

I dont think reality will be outdated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589143)

but enjoy your subjective reality while it lasts... will the poor be able to afford senses? New industires are really competitive.

NSS Department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589149)

"Figure out how to change the sensory data you want infrared into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like sight."

And we shall call it night vision....

Is this really anything new? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589153)

We can detect aircraft using radar, and converting that information to visual input. I can do exactly the same with the stock market with a device called a computer. I can detect heat using a heat sensitive camera. I can use a metal detector to sense underground metals and convert the information to sound.

Re:Is this really anything new? (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589353)

You're missing the point. Nobody's claiming the ability to sense things that humans cannot is new, the idea is to provide that data to a human in a way which is more intuitive. Looking through a heat sensitive camera and being able to see in the thermal radiation as if with your own eyes are two entirely different experiences I would imagine. Maybe it's not the greatest leap in the world, but it's the first step towards integrating new experiences into the brain, with the ultimate long-term goal being to add entirely new senses. Imagine being able to just "know" which direction you're facing in, or to just "know" that an object you're looking at is 135m away and that the wind was blowing at 16kph.

I need a modified one ... (1, Funny)

BlueTrin (683373) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589191)

I need a modified one ... that is pointing away from my wife.

Ghost in the Shell/Anime overlords (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589199)

YAY for Ghost in the Shell [wikipedia.org] ! YAY for anime! You too will soon be able to join our prosthetic body overlords by switching out your real body for a comedic little Jameson type

Hive mind (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589203)

So when do we get our brain-to-internet linkup and form the noosphere?

Re:Hive mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589927)

Get out of my head.

Oh wait...

wired (2, Interesting)

symes (835608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589225)

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

But these changes through experience are fairly permanent and coupled with the brains finite computational power this would mean devoting brain resources to specific extra-sensory processing. This, firstly, takes processing power from existing processes and, secondly, means any upgrades would need to be relearnt over time. In other words, by the time you've learnt how to use smelly-vision(tm) version 1, version 2 will be released and you'll have to start the whole learning thing all over again.

Re:wired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589393)

While the idea of boosting our sensory abilities is appealing I'm not sure that it is something that I would like to play with. The brain is malleable and can rewire itself as it learns (plasticity). This happens most obviously when we learn... and a great example is that the a London taxi driver's hippocampus is significantly larger than non-taxi-driving controls.
From the very source you cite:

"Whether having a bigger hippocampus helps an individual to become a cab driver or finding shortcuts for a living makes an individual's hippocampus grow is yet to be elucidated."

You knew that, of course. Yet you chose to misrepresent the information. Why?

Re:wired (1)

symes (835608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589799)

True - and good point - but animal studies do show the brain adapts to external stimulation so the point is valid. Didn't someone win the Ignobel prize for this taxi driver study?

are gargoyles synaesthetic? (0, Offtopic)

corerunner (971136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589243)

this reminds me of Snow Crash... I like =)

smission? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589245)

Even smission?

Pssssss...everyone knows this has been done (0, Redundant)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589265)

I mean, come on, it's obvious [wikipedia.org] .

Eek (3, Funny)

goldaryn (834427) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589267)

"Wired is running an article exploring several studies of giving the human brain 'new input devices.'

Get ready for plug-and-pray, mark 2..

The special goggles and stuff . . . . (0, Redundant)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589309)

They've already been done. Remember Jordy on Star Trek, the Next Generation?

Lecture on Feelspace (2, Informative)

teslar (706653) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589313)

One of the things mentioned in TFA is König's feelSpace belt, a belt which gives you information about which direction North is. A lecture he gave about it at the Neuro IT summer school in 2005 is actually available here [neuro-it.net] . It's from two years ago, granted, but still reasonably interesting.

There's less here than meets the eye (2, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589333)

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

This sort of sensory augmentation is hardly a new idea.

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

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

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

Re:There's less here than meets the eye (1)

SighKoPath (956085) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589557)

The trick is presenting the information in a way that does not require much attention. After a person has been using such a device for an extended time, wouldn't the attention required to use it be reduced, similar to being able to process other sensory data simultaneously? Sure, talking on a hands-free phone while driving consumes some attention, but the more I do it, the more natural and less attention-consuming it becomes.

Re:There's less here than meets the eye (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589835)

Something that provided simple sensory input (like the direction-finding belt) would also, I imagine, take much less attention after much less training than something like cell-phone usage. Cell-phone usage requires not only sensory use, but constant monitoring of changing and unanticipatable data (listening so you don't miss anything), interpretation of the sense into meaning, storage into memory, and formation of responses.

Re:There's less here than meets the eye (1)

joshier (957448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590131)

Yes, that's like playing a guitar in time with other band members, but a guitarist couldn't then paint a fine picture, even if he was a professional painter and have a hand free.. you just can't do it.

Just to remind, I'm talking about playing the guitar fast, like a complex chorus, or something similar which needs full attention.

Re:There's less here than meets the eye (1)

Slightly Askew (638918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590095)

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

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

The interesting part is the mixing of the senses: "Seeing" music, "smelling" sounds, etc., or using one sense for something not currently interpreted by your senses: "Feeling" north or "seeing" wi-fi. How cool would it be to never get lost, or be able to just look around and find a hotspot?

Re:There's less here than meets the eye (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590189)

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

Definitely agreed. For that matter, it's the same sort of plasticity that allows someone who looks at (film) negatives for long enough, to be able to "read" the scene and know what it looked like originally, without thinking or having to even reverse the colors mentally. You just start to know how things look; trees are this shade, wedding dress is that, etc.

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

I think this is what a lot of the research is getting into, albeit indirectly. The problem today is that we're bottlenecking, badly. You can only stuff so much information at a time in via someone's visual and auditory circuits, and in today's world we're getting close to maxed out. But some of our other senses are underutilized. Right now, when you're sitting at your computer, you're definitely (unless you're blind and using a Braille terminal or screenreader) using your vision, and possibly your hearing, but you're probably not processing much of the information that's being sent by your tongue, nose, or skin. There's a huge amount of available bandwidth there.

Now, your sense of smell might be a difficult one to work with; if the human body is a computer, it's sort of a "legacy" interface, like a serial port. Useful sometimes, and good to have when you need it, but most of the time it's just ignored. (And if Steve Jobs were God, we'd probably have been shipping without noses for generations now.) But touch...that's like UWB [wikipedia.org] .

So a lot of the research that seems particularly interesting to me, is involved in ways of taking things that we normally would process via our overloaded vision or hearing, and translating them to stimuli that can be routed in through touch. The direction-finding belt and the 'tongue camera' are just two examples, but there's really no limit there.

Re:There's less here than meets the eye (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590583)

Interesting tidbit. I don't have a sense of smell and I do just fine. And yes, I can taste, though it's been debated to death by family and friends if by "taste" I've simply just learned to tell what food is which how salty/sweet/bitter the food is (those properties don't rely on smell).

The only problems I face are:
  • Worrying about a gas leaks and/or fires
  • Telling if food has gone bad without tasting it (if the label is "iffy)
  • Knowing if I smell and/or stepped in dog poo
  • A few other minor things

Just plug it in (2, Informative)

blamanj (253811) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589349)

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

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

Re:Just plug it in (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590581)

Google "four color vision" for more. One aspect is that the mutation which makes men color-blind gives women 4-color vision, because it's really a bandwidth shift in one color of cone receptors. For men it means the receptors aren't spaced properly for color vision, but for women it gives finer color discrimination. Google even has a link to Slashdot on this one. But from TFA, the surprise was the the brain simply learned to use the extra sensory information.

Interesting topic, badly written. (4, Informative)

alexhs (877055) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589359)

First, this is not exactly new. For example, I've read years ago about an equipment with a camera and a dot-matrix that could be put on the finger of a blind person, so that person could see in a low-resolution.

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

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

Also, other classic senses are also mixes :

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

Pain is a separated sense, it's a stress from cell that then emit strong signals in nerves and can originate from internal organs.

Hardware discounts? (1, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589443)

I'll bet you will be able to get a sweet discount on those new hyper-range ears.

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

Can you hear me now?

Sensing direction (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18589681)

There was an experiment where a subject wore a belt around his/her waist which vibrated only at the place pointing north. Apparently after a couple of month with this belt on the subject had a very good map of the city he/she lived in in her/his head.
It seems that having a 100% exact 'feel' for where the north is results in a much better mental image of a city.

I think the city was Berlin and it was a german research project, does anyone happen to know more details?

Re:Sensing direction (1)

sxtxixtxcxh (757736) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589975)

more details? did you rtfa?

Magnetic touch (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589853)

I'm surprised the Wired article didn't reference the earlier Wired story on the guy who implanted magnets in his fingertips and could "feel" magnetism (see this Slashdot story [slashdot.org] ).

sure be nice to see electric fields (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589887)

for those of us who spend a lot of time rewiring our houses or playing with high-voltage and high-current devices. Coz boy howdy is it exciting when you clip a line for which you think you've turned off the breaker, and kerblammo. Takes a good-sized chunk out of wireclippers before the correct breaker trips.

I tried tagging the story /dev/brain but the tagging system doesn't like punctuation, apparently.

Re:sure be nice to see electric fields (2, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590251)

You already can see electric fields. Provided they oscillate at 400 to 750 THz.

Magnetic Fingertips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18590425)

Sounds like you could've used a set of these:

http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mods/news/2006/06/710 87 [wired.com]

According to Huffman, the magnet works by moving very slightly, or with a noticeable oscillation, in response to EM fields. This stimulates the somatosensory receptors in the fingertip, the same nerves that are responsible for perceiving pressure, temperature and pain. Huffman and other recipients found they could locate electric stovetops and motors, and pick out live electrical cables. Appliance cords in the United States give off a 60-Hz field, a sensation with which Huffman has become intimately familiar. "It is a light, rapid buzz," he says.

While the experiment resulted in the destruction of the implant, I can easily see a future where a more rugged and stable version of these (embedded in the bone perhaps) are available. They'd be a lifesaver for electricians.

That's nothing. (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589939)

My senses go to eleven.

Here's a primitive example in use now... (1)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | more than 7 years ago | (#18589997)

Here is a device that allows the blind to "see" by imprinting images onto the tongue:

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

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

It's Called A "Wife" (4, Funny)

rewinn (647614) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590083)

When I got married, my sense of hearing adapted to enhance my sense of color ("You're going to wear that?"), smell ("The garbage needs taking out") and self-preservation ("Does this make me look fat?")

Wha? (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590125)

Figure out how to change the sensory data you want -- the electromagnetic fields, the ultrasound, the infrared -- into something that the human brain is already wired to accept, like touch or sight.
Oh, wait, you mean, like with a screen, keyboard, and mouse? Not to belittle future improvements to the man-machine interface, but there's a reason why the video display/keyboard/mouse combination has been around so long: it works well with a minimum amount of training. That's not to say that using other senses won't enhance our computing experience (the belt mentioned in TFA is pretty cool), but I think KVM is a very flexible way of accomplishing this already.

Imagine you had a sense that nobody else had (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590145)

Would you even know you had it, not being able to describe it to other people?

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

But language or not, at least people share the sense of proprioception, so there are shared experiences that could form the basis for communication. But imagine you had some ability most other people didn't have, say the ability to detect electric current or to feel when somebody was observing you. I'm not sure you would necessarily even be aware when the sense was operating, other than feeling a kind of "intuition".

Re:Imagine you had a sense that nobody else had (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590671)

Years/decades ago I read a science fiction book about a planet where the survivors of the planetary settling had vision and hearing problems. Back in civilization it didn't matter, because we have glasses and hearing aids. That stuff quickly faded on this particular planet, because for some unremembered reason, they were starting pretty much from scratch. They adapted to everyone having poor vision and hearing, and managed to survive.

The story was about a young girl who had normal sight and vision, and was an outcast because she was something of a "witch." As an interesting side, the story used our words "speak", "hear", "look", "see", etc to mean their versions of those actions, but they don't really tell you that, outright. The author then invented new words like "spiek" and "hier" for what the girl did, using our normal senses.

Rather a nifty treatment, though I remember nothing else about it, may have even been a teenager when I read it, and may remember it more fondly than it really deserved.

C'mon - this used to be simpler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18590661)

Haven't they heard of LSD?

I'm not sure I'd want to be "hacking" any of my senses this way.

I think we solved this one a long time ago. (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#18590695)

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

Last time I checked humans had made instruments to detect and track information of all sorts. In order to turn the things detected into something that could be detect by human senses we invented an interface. They are called displays and take many forms. We even invented a way to our brain to interface with and control those devices in turn, they are called controls and also take many forms.
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