Lick my Brain Port!

Warriors of the future will 'taste' battlefield
("tastes like victory")

By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish.

A narrow strip of red plastic connects the Brain Port to the tongue where 144 microelectrodes transmit information through nerve fibers to the brain. Instead of holding and looking at compasses and bluky-hand-held sonar devices, the divers can processes the information through their tongues, said Dr. Anil Raj, the project's lead scientist.

In testing, blind people found doorways, noticed people walking in front of them and caught balls. A version of the device, expected to be commercially marketed soon, has restored balance to those whose vestibular systems in the inner ear were destroyed by antibiotics.

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."

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17 Responses:

  1. rasp_utin says:

    "It tastes like burning."

  2. fantasygoat says:

    "You look delicious."

  3. dsgood says:

    I've passed this on to the Synesthesia mailing list.

  4. j4k0b says:

    So how do you actually get the information? Is it like you just suddenly know what is in front of you?

    • taiganaut says:

      Your brain just sort of figures out how to use the BrainPort and the attached device (camera, balance meter, etc) as a new sense organ after you wear it long enough.

  5. taiganaut says:

    I wrote a paper on this for, get this, a comparative literature class. I did some research on BrainPort and found that the cool thing about it is that you just wear it for a while and your brain suddenly figures out how to "see" (or whatever) from it, as opposed to "I'm feeling buzzing little dots representing an image." It's like connecting up a new sense organ that the brain just figures out how to use after a while.

    My premise was that connecting some DSP-filtered output of an EEG from person A to a BrainPort on person B could be a first proof-of-concept step towards electronic telepathy: if you could prove that one bit of information, for example the yes/no state of person A's eyes being open or closed -- which causes large detectable changes in the EEG of the visual cortex -- into person B's mind, you've just proven that information can be transmitted directly from the brain of one person to another without use of any sort of signaling system like language. Baby step #1.

    The name of the comp-lit course was "Brave New Worlds." It was a survey of dystopian fiction. :)

    • mooflyfoof says:

      Holy shit, that's fucking cool.

    • catullus_5 says:

      But eyes open/closed IS a signal. Maybe not as dramatic as a baseball coach moving his hands all over the place, but it's a signal.

      • taiganaut says:

        I'm not sure you understood what I meant. The person wearing the EEG tinfoil helmet is not visible to the person wearing the BrainPort. The communication is directly from one brain to another through an electronic conduit with no mediation through language, hand signals, charades or anything else.

    • kamaraga says:

      I enjoyed reading your paper and it's exploration of this device's potential for creating electronic telepathy. I was particularly fascinated by your rather optimistic belief and examples of how such a technology could be used for good by bringing people closer through intimacy, sharing of positive feelings, and strengthening commonality, all without even mentioning any negative consequences. In contrast, I'd usually focused on how it could enable tyrannical invasions of privacy, rampant group-think and conformity, increased hostility towards incompatible belief systems, misguided assumptions of absolute certainty, secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, disintegration of reality and self, etc. It was interesting to see this from such a different angle, which I suppose was a key theme of the paper. Although I'm not quite ready to give up my cynicism, it was nice to set that aside and look beyond it. Cheers.

      • taiganaut says:

        I thought about those things, particularly if the devices became wearable and integrated with PAN (Personal Area Network) technology, effectively giving people short-range telepathy with anyone around who was wearing a device. That last bastion of imposed privacy, one's thoughts remaining one's own, would be somewhat eroded at a minimum.

        Being as the course was about dystopian fiction, it might have been more straightforward to focus on such things, but that's not what I would want if presented with such technology. :)

        • kamaraga says:

          if the devices became wearable and integrated with PAN (Personal Area Network) technology, effectively giving people short-range telepathy with anyone around who was wearing a device.

          Vernor Vinge's "A Fire upon the Deep" provided a beautiful example of the benefits, hazards and practical considerations of this. This synopsis excerpt, "four-legged creatures who run in packs, are individually no smarter than dogs or rats, but when they coalesce in packs of four or more, they form self-aware unitary persons of surprising abilities. Because their sharp claws and their spatially separate bodies work together like the tines of a fork, the humans call them Tines." I highly recommend this book.

          Being as the course was about dystopian fiction, it might have been more straightforward to focus on such things, but that's not what I would want if presented with such technology. :)

          Rebel scum! Report immediately to a Citizen Reprogramming Center so that you can feel as appalled by the threat of dystopian neural conformity as you're supposed to be!

  6. azul_ros says:

    Funny, just reading that gave me the 9-volt battery test sensation on my tongue!! Surely the actual sensors don't work that way... but still... weird...

  7. hentaikid says:

    "effhemy iffcofing"

    "what?"

    "ffeer unffr affack!"

    "Sorry?"

    "ffhey ar ffooting aff uff!!"