Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tasting Red

Wearable Computer for Colorblind Painter - David Pescovitz @ BoingBoing
Neil Harbisson Home Page
Synesthesia @ Wikipedia

I like that the strangeness of synesthesia is used to allow a colorblind artist to see 360 colors as translated by sound. The mixing of our common five senses through the crosswiring of our brains is a personal favorite topic of mine. It combines the physicality of the brain itself with the mind-related perceptions of the world to offer new visions that otherwise would not have existed before. I do not believe that we are done in developing senses and that in the future (whether this is a hundred, a hundred thousand or a million years in the future I don't know) we will have new sense with which to experience the physical world. Of course, how we interpret those sensations and experiences is still dependent on the mind and the brain.
In the case of artist Neil Harbisson, the relay of color information through sound allows him to paint as if he can see colors, even if it is limited to 360 colors. While I'm sure the number of colors will increase with time I do have to wonder what kind of application this technology will have on the truly blind. If you can translate visual data through sound for someone who is merely colorblind when will we see the first use of this tech for the blind, or the opposite for the deaf? Moreover, what kind of mixture of sensation will such blind or deaf people experience? And will making visual data available to the blind affect their other sensations? Will evoloution play a role in how sensory data is experienced and relayed to the brain/mind? And will this relay happen quickly?
I think it's only appropriate to mention again Warren Ellis and his character The Drummer in Planetary in the context of this post. The Drummer had a sixth sense, one that allowed him to read information as if he were seeing sunlight or tasting coffee. When will this kind of new sensory experience come along and will technology play a role in how it evolves? It's fascinating to think of since our lives are ruled by the sensory data we receive and how the brain/mind molds that data into our perceptions.

No comments: