Can We Create New Senses For Humans?
David Eagleman is a Neuroscientist, Author, Technologist, and Entrepreneur. His research encompasses brain plasticity, sensory substitution, time perception, synesthesia, and the intersection of brain science with the legal system.
Humans evolved in a narrow band of experience. Referred to as the Umwelt, our individual perception of reality differs based on the sensory systems available to us. David Eagleman is experimenting with enhancing our senses by converting light, sound, and other stimuli into vibrations we can feel.
In 1969 a modified dental chair was used to create physical stimuli on a persons back based on a camera input – it was used to let blind people feel visualizations. Other methods include cameras that convert the visual information into sound or into tactile sensations on the tongue. Eagleman developed a jacket that converts sound into tactile sensation on the abdomen, letting blind people feel spoken words. It has since been miniaturized to a wristband with four vibratory motors, making it much more convenient for everyday use.
There is a 100x cost differential between vibration translation vs. a cochlear implant. This is an extremely accessible technology which can improve lives all over the globe. Tangential uses of the technology are also springing up – it’s being used to counteract tinnitus and augment normal listening experiences. It’s been adapted to give positional information about tilt for people with poor balance, and for prosthetics to create haptic feedback.
The next evolution of these sensory devices is to feed in completely new sets of data – the stock market, drone position, signals from a chemical nose – and create haptic feedback for the user. Eagleman is a scientific advisor for Westworld, and the large scale vests have been featured on the show.
We need to image neural activity in real-time across the whole brain, in order to crack the neural code