6 Ways Technology Can Give You Super Senses
You may have noticed that our computer programs and devices are constantly being upgraded -- we've had to update Adobe five times while typing this sentence. So, when is the technology going to come along to upgrade us?
Why, for instance, are our bodies stuck with the same lame five senses our caveman ancestors had? Sure, we can go in for laser surgery to correct bad vision, but why can't we get super vision while we're there? Well the good news is, those human upgrades are on the way. They just hopefully won't need to be updated again a week later. (Seriously, Adobe, what's wrong with you?)
Gloves That Let You Feel Virtual Sensations
Our fingers are pretty good at feeling the things they're currently touching, but not so good at feeling everything else. You know what the table in front of you feels like, but what if you want to touch, say, a rhinoceros, and there are none around? That's where science comes in. Scientists have designed a glove that'll allow your digits to feel virtual sensations, like the soothing skin of an alpaca, or the smooth surface of a brand new car, or -- OK, yeah, most people are gonna use this for porn, probably.
It already has giant sperm stenciled on it.
So far, the researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have managed to create a set of "smart fingertips" that can send electrical signals to the skin. It's basically a tiny little condom made of a circuit-polyimide structure, which is fitted onto a finger-shaped tube of silicon and then your actual finger. The applications for this are numerous, from highly precise surgery to contact sports. Or porn, did we mention porn?
Not only can this thing theoretically transmit different sensations like hot or cold, but the article also mentions that it "could restore sensation to people who have lost their natural skin," like burn victims or amputees. Does that mean they could help disabled people actually feel their prosthetic limbs? Because that would be amazing.
Your missing arm will still itch, but now your replacement will, too!
But imagine a future where you can't just browse the Internet, but actually touch it. Imagine scrolling down your Tumblr feed and being able to feel the fur of that LOLcat, or Tom Hiddleston's face, or Tom Hiddleston's face again. For once, all that baffling talk of "feels" would be justified. Just make sure you take off your electronic glove before you go into 4chan or you could end up touching someone's virtual turd.
A Gadget That Lets You "See" Through Walls
A team of MIT engineers traumatized by decades of fraudulent comic book ads have developed a handheld device called the Wi-Vi that actually lets you "see" behind walls. It's not quite X-ray vision, but it can let you know if your wife has guests in the living room before you wander out of your room in your undies. In fact, just putting it against a wall tells you if someone is moving on the other side, on what direction, and how many of them there are. Check it out -- the device is behind the wall on the left:
A sine wave, for example, shows a serial killer's repetitive gait.
The way it works is that it shoots Wi-Fi signals at an obstruction, say a wall, which then bounce off any objects on the other side. The data can tell you how far or near a person is, right down to their step. It's so clever that it can detect and keep track of up to three people at the same time and successfully tell them apart from anything that isn't moving, like a couch.
Its creators say this could be used to help rescue workers know if there's someone alive under rubble or let police scan a place before a raid ... but more importantly, think of all the awkward situations this could prevent. No more knocking on the door to find out if someone's using the toilet. No more running into Gary from accounting in the office kitchen and having to talk about his graphic novel idea for 10 minutes.
No more walking away from the doorbell, when you just know they're in there laughing at you.
A parent could use it to quickly find out if their kid snuck someone into their room, or conversely the kid could leave it by the door and tell when mom is coming. The only downside is that since this thing relies on Wi-Fi signals, it would be rendered completely useless the moment you step into a hotel.
A Suit That Gives You Real-Life Spidey Sense
If you've ever wanted to be Spider-Man, but didn't want to put up with the "With great power comes great responsibility" mumbo-jumbo, then Victor Mateevitsi is your man. A suit that he designed allows you to "sense" objects around you in a 60-inch radius, even if you're not looking -- when tested with blindfolded students, they were able to detect the incoming person and chuck a star at them at a 95 percent success rate.
The 95 percent fatality rate was deemed a success by scientists and ninjas alike.
It's like Spidey's spider sense or Daredevil's radar sense, except it's real and doesn't involve getting exposed to any radioactive materials at a young age. Instead, the suit sports small mechanical arms with built-in ultrasonic microphones -- once an object is detected by the microphones, they send signals to a microprocessor, which then tell the little arms to apply a tingling pressure to your body in the direction of the object. So if there's a guy with a baseball bat coming to hit you in a specific body part, you'll feel a tug down there that will let you know about the danger.
Applications for the suit range from helping cyclers avoid traffic accidents to kicking ass at dodgeball. Ever wanted to recreate the scene where Peter Parker catches the basketball without looking? Now you can, and for just $650. Of course, if everyone got one of these suits we'd have to completely redefine the concept of personal space -- if someone keeps standing within 60 inches of your butt and making the sensors start caressing you, does that count as sexual harassment? These are the problems the lawyers of the future will have to deal with.
Still not an excuse: "It was your fault for wearing that."
A Pair of Glasses That Lets You "Read" People's Emotions
Every time you talk to someone, there are little twitches in their expression that give up what they're really thinking -- maybe that vein in your roommate's forehead jumped when you said "underpants," or maybe he blushed slightly when you mentioned someone had stolen all of yours. These changes are usually too subtle to pick up, but science is working hard on changing that.
Researchers at MIT have developed a code that enables devices to detect every subtle change in an image and take it to 11. You can, for example, see the imperceptible change of color in someone's face every time he inhales and exhales, like this:
Or, he's seeing a naked ghost and alternating between horny and scared.
This process is known as Eulerian video magnification, and it basically takes changes that would normally be invisible to the eye and makes them as visible as you want. We can use these devices to make the slight vibration of the subway look like a freaking earthquake and to detect breathing problems in infants. But that's not all: With this kind of technology, in the future we can also potentially read people's emotions, just by blowing up the subtle changes now made visible in their skin.
By the color of their skin, see the content of their character.
Yep, we're that much closer to technology that will let you pretty much read people's minds. We will once and for all know what everyone in the room with us is truly thinking, and all human society will utterly collapse five minutes later.
An Ankle Bracelet That Gives You Super Sense of Direction
For a while now we've known about how birds use magnets in their beaks to help them migrate every year, which is why you don't end up seeing flocks of birds stranded on the highest billboard, trying to remember from which part of the sky they flew from. Mother Nature didn't think this was a necessary feature for humans, but researchers have fixed this oversight: They've developed a device that actually trains your brain into always knowing which way is north.
It's also a sexual aid, just like every item in this article.
North Paw is an ankle-worn compass with vibrators lined up around its inner surface that lets the user know where the magnetic north is by vibrating in that direction. While it does sound like a cool invention, its relevance in a world filled with smartphones that probably have a thousand apps for directions might seem questionable. However, what really makes this device amazing is that the constant buzzing will actually teach your body where the north is -- eventually, your brain and newly developed neural pathways will just be able to identify the north in the same way you just know when you have to scratch yourself. You won't need a compass anymore because you'll be the compass.
Useful when you're in a stranger's kitchen and need the exit so you can return to your handler.
The North Paw's original intention is probably helping people trekking in the woods not get lost and starve to death, but even urban tourists could benefit from just insuring they never again look at a map upside down because they thought the north was the other way (that's how you end up getting stabbed on the wrong side of town). Hell, even on the confines of our homes, this would vastly improve our experience navigating our way to the toilet late at night -- think about it, no more accidentally peeing on the oven! We truly live in an era of unparalleled wonders.
A Mask That Gives You Super Eyes and Ears
Of course, here we are inventing entire new senses when by far the most useful thing would be just upgrading the ones we have -- the ability to zoom in on objects hundreds of yards away, or hear a single cockroach farting inside the wall would change the world.
We can start simple, like the telescopic contact lenses developed by researchers from California and Switzerland. These let you see at a distance 2.8 times greater than the lame eyeballs you were born with, with the ability to switch between super and normal vision at will:
But will our bionic descendants know how to love?
As you can guess, these started out as a DARPA-funded project into vision-enhancing devices to let soldiers shoot people better, but they're now thinking about prioritizing them for the elderly. Because if we had to choose between better soldiers or old people that can actually drive, the latter would probably save more lives.
And then we have the Eidos Mask, which upgrades your eyes and ears to superhuman levels at the small cost of making you look utterly ridiculous.
"You merely adopted the dark. I invented a device to banish it forever."
The first piece of the prototype, which covers the ears, mouth, and nose, allows you to single out particular sounds in a noisy environment. This video gives the example of being able to hear someone talking in a busy train station, or isolating your favorite instrument during a concert (good news, cowbell fans). The possibilities are endless, but just being able to talk to someone in a bar would be revolutionary enough for us. Also, if it can zone in on one sound, surely it can do the opposite, too, right? Imagine being able to put the noisy couple next to you at the cinema on mute. Or everyone else in the room, for that matter.
The second piece of the prototype, covering your eyes, is somewhat akin to what Iron Man's mask would look like without the billion dollar budget. It's a headset with a mounted camera that can apply effects in real time; instead of singling out sounds, it shows motion patterns like the trajectory of a tennis ball, or the hidden ballet in the movement of a dog humping a mailbox. In other words, it can translate anything you see into a trippy psychedelic visual -- even the long line at the bank would look exhilarating with this thing on.
Or, take mescaline before entering, and brave the guards' wrath.
See, this is what we wanted out of Google Glass. Forget that shit about checking our email on the fly -- we want a thing that just puts us in our own version of reality at all times. Now make it not look stupid, guys!
Tired of cliche wizards and space opera? Check out XJ's $0.99 science-fiction/fantasy novella on Amazon here, with the sequel OUT NOW. And of course, you should look at his writing blog and poke him on Twitter.
Related Reading: Before you buy any of this stuff, let premature ejaculation Daredevil show you why super senses might be a bad thing. And did you know Silver-Tip gorillas can smell you across time? They can, just as Hammerhead sharks can smell electricity.