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Sensebridge: The Noisebridge Cyborg Group

"If you can't beat the robot armies, join them."

We are concerned with human-machine interfaces.


To avoid confusion (where possible) we'll try to use these terms.

"Sensor" is the device that detects external stuff that the body (probably) can't detect. "Display" is the way the device shows data to the body (not necessarily visually). This gets around the device-centric / body-centric problem that shows up when using the terms input & output. "Armature" is the physical component of the device: the belt, hat, armband, etc; distinct from the electronics.

Sensors (Input to the body)

Our first task will be to experiement with data input modes. What signals can we overlay upon the body's standard senses, and by what means? Of particular interest are electro- and vibro-tactile stimulation. What bandwiths are available according to the nature and location of input stimuli?

Secondly, we need to identify useful measurements to input. Sensory augmentation has been around for centuries, think of magnifying glasses or hearing aids. Sensory substitution, on the other hand, involves the transposition of one sensory stimulus into another: seeing sound, hearing distance, feeling vision, etc. Sensory extension is measuring signals beyond regular human abilities, such as magnetometry, radar, echo location or even digital signals coming from a wireless network carrying such diverse information as locations of friends in crowds or network activity on one's website.

Sensor Sourcing

Here is a page for discussing sensor chips in terms of price and usability.

Stimulus Sensor and Input Method Common API

  • What might that mean?
    • A standard protocol that can:
      1. encompass most sensory data of the sort we are interested in researching
      2. allow for presentation of any those data through any of a wide variety of modalities
  • Why?
    • Plug-and-play(ish) interoperability of sensors and input modes. Build three sensors and three input modes, and we have 9 possible combinations, und so weiter.
    • Simplify development by separating sensing and presentation design/tasks.
  • How?
    • On the data sensing end:
      1. Identify a primary set of interesting stimuli, consider various encodings thereof.
      2. Abstract away from the physical phenomena the stimuli represent and look instead at common patterns in the data streams.
      3. ???
    • On the data presentation end:
      1. Identify and prototype a number of input methods.
      2. For each method think of:
        • What modulations of the signal are possible; intensity, spacing, direction, timing...? Based on that, what is the theoretical bandwidth of that input method?
        • How sensitive is the average person there? How much of the signal can the brain interpret meaningfully (too much noise vs. too weak of a signal)? Based on that, what is the practical bandwidth that we might expect?

Cybernetic Theory

Cybernetic loop of GPS + vibrating hat, diagram.

Pseudo-cybernetic loop showing neural integration of artificial sensory system, diagram.

Brain/Body Output

The study of output is a question in how we can interface with machines beyond the manual button pushing and lever pulling. Some ideas in this field are biomechanical feedback, pulse detection, eye-tracking, etc.

First Investigations

There seems to be a strong interest in developing a tactile wearable compasses, but in ways far more effective and practical than big vibrating belts. A first study will be in what other possible device configurations and what possible signal modulation are both 1) intuitive enough for sub-concious integration into the wearer's cognitive space, and 2) pratical to wear in terms of size, weight, design, energy consumption, and noisiness.

Another field of general interest are tongue stimulation devices. We will discuss how to either order or make one or several of these.

Interesting questions

What new sense do you want? What existing sense might it map onto?

The brain seems to integrate consistent input quite easily. What happens after this integration has happened, when the input stops (i.e., you take off the belt after wearing it for days)?


Youtube of experimenter stimulating his face with small electrical pulses to produce externally controlled movements: - remote control cockroach

Meeting Notes

March 15, 2009