Engadget recently posted a story about a flexible tactile display that can be wrapped around any part of the body and give haptic feedback to the user. The research team from Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University that developed the device are focusing on applications like Braille for the visually impaired or transmitting tactile data to a remote user, but this is just the beginning; the applications for wearable haptic feedback are wide open.
The Feelspace tactile compass is a good example. It is little more than an electronic compass hooked to array of vibrators arranged along a belt, but it allows the wearer to know which way is north at all times by pulsing only the northernmost vibrator. It’s intended to be worn at all times, so it creates a sort of directional sixth sense for the user without the need to constantly check a device. If they are able to reduce the size of the housing unit and combine it with these new displays, it could be worn inconspicuously under clothes.
If you want more native superpowers, body modder [Steve Haworth] has a solution. By implanting a silicone-coated neodymium magnet into the fingertip, the owner of the implant becomes capable of sensing magnetism with a degree of sensitivity unattainable by simply holding a magnet. One person who had the magnet implanted reported feeling magnetic sensors at a library and feeling the location of a motor in an electric can opener six inches from his hand.
We’re always curious about input fed to the body by worn or implanted devices, and with these advances, the notion of data and sensory integration is almost a palpable reality. Pun intended, but can you blame us?