Abort, retry, fail

The seeing-eye tongue, pt. 2

I blogged a while back about “the seeing-eye tongue” — a technology that takes visual images and translates them into electrical impulses on a strip you place on your tongue. Since tongues are highly granular, they can sense incredibly minute gradations. People who use the system describe it like ESP — being able to “see” things you normally couldn’t. The technology was originally developed for the blind, but according to a recent story on MSNBC, the military and law-enforcement agencies are now experimenting with it:

Michael Zinszer, a veteran Navy diver and director of Florida State University’s Underwater Crime Scene Investigation School, took part in testing using the tongue to transmit an electronic compass and an electronic depth sensor while in a swimming pool.

He likened the feeling on his tongue to Pop Rocks candies. “You are feeling the outline of this image,” he said. “I was in the pool, they were directing me to a very small object and I was able to locate everything very easily.”

The military wants to route sonar through it and effectively give soldiers a 360-degree field of vision — “eyes in the back of your head”. Me, I’d love to see this used as a video-game interface! Imagine playing a game where you look at the action on screen, but also have a sixth-sense perception of events transpiring far away, or invisibly, on in another dimension.

Oh, and you’d look classy sitting there on your sofa, with a couple of electrodes sticking out of your mouth.

(Thanks to Frank for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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