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BrainPort Allows People To Reclaim Damaged Senses 216

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-just-freaky dept.
Karma Star writes "There is a news article on a new device called a BrainPort, which is special device that is worn like a helmet, with a strip of tape containing an array of 144 microelectrodes hanging off the headset which is placed on the tongue. The BrainPort then sends signals to the tongue which are then picked up by the brain, allowing the user to regain otherwise lost sensory input. More at the NY Times (soul stealing subscription required)."
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BrainPort Allows People To Reclaim Damaged Senses

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  • Thats great (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:31PM (#10899159)
    Can I use it to recover my sense of humour?
    • by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:46PM (#10899367) Homepage Journal
      This will give a whole new meaning for bad taste jokes.
  • by TrollBridge (550878) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:32PM (#10899161) Homepage Journal
    Can I wear it over my tin-foil hat?
  • Big deal (Score:5, Funny)

    by LouCifer (771618) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:32PM (#10899168)
    Back when I was in highschool, I'd put a little piece of paper on my tounge and in about an hour I'd get the sensation of flight, could "see" sound, speak to animals and the like.

    Plus, I didnt have to wear a helmet when I dropped acid.

  • by freeze128 (544774) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:33PM (#10899173)
    This music tastes Great!
    • Less filling!

      But you'll still be stuck in engineering while a guy with a positronic brain gets all the action.

    • Re:Confused senses (Score:3, Informative)

      by igny (716218)
      Synaesthesia [google.com] is quite common actually.
      • Re:Confused senses (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mforbes (575538) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:57PM (#10899511)
        I'm a synaesthete myself, which is why I never tried any of the hallucinogenics-- I was always afraid I'd lose that wonderful crossing of the senses that I so enjoy.

        I'm fortunate that my case is very mild; if it hadn't been for a number of conversations in early adolescence where I tried to describe something using adjectives that made perfect sense to me but not to others, I would never have known I'm different. In high school orchestra, most of the other kids could understand when I'd describe the sound of a viola as warm, or a piccolo as cold... but they'd have no idea what I meant when I started describing the grain of the viola sound (looks a lot like highly-polished oak under a tungsten lamp), or the brilliant white light of a b# played in second position on a violin's E string.

        I read years ago in the Washington Post about a case of a fellow who was much more severely affected than I. Instead of seeing the sounds overlayed on the 'normal' visual field, and being able to easily distinguish what was seen with the eyes vs what was seen through hearing, his senses were so crosswired that this was no longer possible. The anecdote given in the story was that he stopped to buy something from a street vendor (ice cream, I think). But when the vendor spoke, his voice looked to the synaesthete like charcoal bricks falling out of the guy's mouth. The article said he hadn't been able to eat ice cream (or whatever the food was) since then. Like I said, I'm fortunate. My symptoms are thoroughly enjoyable & have never presented problems like that.
        • As a musician and classical violinist I have to wonder why the B# played in second position on the E string differs from 1) the simpler notation of C for the same note as B# or 2) the same C/B# played in third, fourth, or fifth position.

          I think a lot of people can associate imagery with music; for what purpose do you think compositions like Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf exist?

          I call B.S. on this unless you have a serious complex. I also think that the use of verbiage like "b# p
          • As a musician and classical violinist I have to wonder why the B# played in second position on the E string differs from 1) the simpler notation of C for the same note as B#

            It depends on the key the music is in, right? I mean, yeah, B# and C are the same note, but the notation depends on the key. The key of C# has a B# and the key of F# has an E#, if I'm not mistaken.

            I guess with the context of his message, we can't tell if he meant a B# as a part of a song, or by itself.
            • Yep, you're right about the notation bit. The same note in different contexts can sound differently. They are, however, still the same note ... and it doesn't remove the question about the position. All signs still point to rhetoric for me.
          • Re:Confused senses (Score:3, Informative)

            by omeomi (675045)
            I call B.S. on this unless you have a serious complex.

            While I have no idea if this guy is telling the truth about his own condition, "synesthesia" is a real neurological condition. It can be brought on by drugs, such as LSD, or it can occur naturally...

            http://web.mit.edu/synesthesia/www/synesthesia.htm l [mit.edu]
          • Re:Confused senses (Score:3, Interesting)

            by vidarh (309115)
            Your questions about musical technicalities aside, since I know little about music theory (though I'd assume specifically using B# instead of C reflects the different role of the note in whatever piece of music the previous poster was thinking off), you miss the point entirely. This is not about "associating imagery with music".

            When most people "associate imagery" with music, that is exactly what we do - we connect some image that seems suitable, with the music, coloured by our experiences, what we know a

          • Re:Confused senses (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mforbes (575538) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:06PM (#10900411)
            You're absolutely right about calling B# & C the same thing-- I don't know what the heck I was thinking about. This just goes to show how out of practice I am at playing (and reading!) music for my viola.

            Anyway, I'm interested in your challenge, but I don't understand what you mean by 'You have to tell me which version each recording represents'. As you pointed out, C and B# are the same thing. As far as finger position, I don't really care if it's fourth-finger in 1st position or 1st finger in 3rd position, it's still the same note with the same color and shape. No, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. I don't claim to have perfect pitch-- or anywhere near it, for that matter, which is why I never went beyond high school orchestra.

            As much as I love Vivaldi's Four Seasons, particularly the Presto from Summer, I can't really agree that the compositions you mention are visual at all. Beethoven's Egmont Overture has moments where it's extremely visual, but not those two.

            Interestingly, one bit of music that always has the same visual dynamics for me isn't classical at all. It's Genesis' The Brazillian (the last track on Invisible Touch). I've tried to paint it and/or draw it a few times, but lack the talent to do so properly; the only description I can give of it is that it has the dynamics of a water show with the speed and versatility of a laser-light show. Listen to it some time when you have a spare three minutes (about all the time it takes to play it). There are certain auditory cues in the track that I actually see-- a synthetic drum playing a sound that I can only describe as looking like Edgerton's frozen milk-drop photograph, for instance (except not frozen in this case, just slow-motioned).

            I have no ability to prove you wrong in your challenge that I see sounds. You have no way to prove me wrong when I assert that you see the color blue the same way I see the color red. So, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
            • in my reply to this /. article I wanted to write something like: "cool, I want a 800x600 b/w eye on may back, so I will see in infrared, x-ray, or just connect this eye to my very-small-and-portable-laptop",

              but you raise a very interesting topic:

              Interestingly, one bit of music that always has the same visual dynamics for me isn't classical at all. It's Genesis' The Brazillian (the last track on Invisible Touch)

              I'm downloading this right now (via mldonkey ;) - I should have it tommorow.

              In fact I'm no

          • Re:Confused senses (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Gordonjcp (186804)
            I get this with rhythms. I can remember *always* hearing little tunes and rhythms as I watched moving things, and I was amazed to discover that *not everyone gets this*. When I was about four or five, I didn't like a particular piece of road because the telephone poles, normally an exact distance apart giving a nice steady rhythm, had been replaced *very* slightly out - perhaps about a foot or so - causing a funny jarring little cross-rhythm.
          • As a musician and classical violinist I have to wonder why the B# played in second position on the E string differs from 1) the simpler notation of C for the same note as B# or 2) the same C/B# played in third, fourth, or fifth position.

            As others have noted, B# and C may well not be the same note, depending on the key. For example, C as the mediant in the context of A flat major should be about 15 cents below an even tempered "C", while B sharp as the leading tone in the context of C sharp major would be

        • but they'd have no idea what I meant when I started describing the grain of the viola sound (looks a lot like highly-polished oak under a tungsten lamp), or the brilliant white light of a b# played in second position on a violin's E string.


          At the risk of sounding like the Aspies over on kuro5hin, I'll make the comment that I have had similar experiences. I frequently perceive pain as sound, and sometimes color as well. I do sometimes see a color with certain sounds.

          I assumed, and still do, that everyo
          • "I frequently perceive pain as sound,"

            And I frequently perceive sound as pain, especially when it's Gangsta Rap or Country & Western.

        • Funny you should mention Ice Cream and synaesthete in the same post. Check out the short story The Empire of Ice Cream [scifi.com] by Jeffery Ford.

          I first read it in a paperback [amazon.com] but when I saw this slashdot post, I remembered it and found it online.

          Enjoy.

          • Wonderful story, and a great way to blow off work for fifteen minutes-- many thanks!

            For a non-synaesthete, the author does a wonderful job of presenting the senses. I've read that many synaesthetes have their senses of taste, smell and touch (which is actually several senses-- temperature, pressure, texture, etc), involved. I've always been a little jealous of those people, as the only senses I get crossed regularly are vision and hearing, and even those aren't 100% dependable. The things I see & h
        • I'm a synaesthete myself, which is why I never tried any of the hallucinogenics

          LUCKY! I'm a normal dude, so that's exactly why I did a lot of acid in high school. I got visual feedback for sense of touch, very strange. Good times though.
    • Shhhh...you smell something?
    • But best to avoid bad reviews from fans - they taste awful!
  • Mmmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by skraps (650379) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:33PM (#10899174)
    This story tastes delicious.
  • Yes but (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:34PM (#10899196)
    What if you lost your sense of taste?
    • Re:Yes but (Score:5, Funny)

      by mfender9 (725994) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:37PM (#10899250)
      Well, then you'd just spend your life watching Julia Roberts movies and not worry about it...
    • Re:Yes but (Score:3, Informative)

      by over_exposed (623791)
      This doesn't use taste, it uses electrical impulses. As long as you still have feeling on your tongue, you're ok. Well, you're not necessarily ok, but you are able to use this apparatus. If you lose feeling in your tongue, this technology has been proven with sensors on subject's backs, chests, and foreheads.
  • Their Product [nytimes.com]

    Prior art? [google.com]
    • IAAVN (I am a visual neuroscientist, and that's TWICE in one week I've been able to say that on Slashdot!), and happen to have done extensive patent research on this very subject.

      There *is* prior art, but a good lawyer should be able to argue around it. In one example, visual sensations of auditory input (ie, sound) were generated by applying electrical stimulation to the outside of the head. Reading through the patent, and surmising how much external electrical stimulation it takes to create an effect i
  • the tinfoil lining is included! For the new ReynoldsHT Extreme X-Wrap XP, you need to pay another $79.95.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . ca> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:36PM (#10899226) Journal
    The textual description of this... "The strip was wired to a kind of carpenter's level, which was mounted on a hard hat that she placed on her head...". for some reason, the image that unavoidably comes to mind is that of Doctor Who's classic Cybermen.
    • You're lucky. The images this reminds me of are more like Mr. Garrison's "Segway" invention (on South Park, just before the release of the "real" Segway.)

      It was controlled by a "probe".

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:36PM (#10899235)
    A two-electrode version of this device exists in the form of licking 9V batteries, to give users the sense of whether 9V batteries are dead. It also works to test the main I hear...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It tastes like... burning.
    • Re:Already exists (Score:2, Interesting)

      by skraps (650379)
      Apparently, people have had these things for a long time.
      • "This program is sweet"
      • "You are a very bitter person"
      • "Your work is tasteless"
    • A two-electrode version of this device exists in the form of licking 9V batteries, to give users the sense of whether 9V batteries are dead.

      Yes, but if unreliable internet sources have taught me anything, it's that 3 people die each year from trying this! That's almost as scary as this hydrogen dioxide problem!
  • Taste (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jedaustin (52181) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:37PM (#10899239) Homepage
    What if Im missing my sense of taste?

    Im sure having some gadget sticking in your mouth and a huge helmet on your head would make you a hit with the ladies too!

    Seriously though.. I could see applications for this.
    Picture this:
    Fighter helmet with mouth piece that sits against the pilots tongue. When the computer detects a threat it can stimulate the pilots tongue in relation to the direction and distance of the target. After a little training this sort of thing would really increase reaction time.
    Though it would make a conversation with the tower a bit tough :)

    • Re:Taste (Score:3, Funny)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      When the computer detects a threat it can stimulate the pilots tongue in relation to the direction and distance of the target.

      What would it taste of?

      Normal day: "Mmmmmmm beer"

      Real emergency: "EWWWWW SPROUTS!!! GET ME OUT OF HERE!"
    • Re:Taste (Score:5, Funny)

      by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:03PM (#10899570)
      > Picture this:
      >
      > Fighter helmet with mouth piece that sits against the pilots tongue. When the computer detects a threat it can stimulate the pilots tongue in relation to the direction and distance of the target. After a little training this sort of thing would really increase reaction time.
      >
      > Though it would make a conversation with the tower a bit tough :)

      You must taste... in Russian!

      In Thoviat Rutthia, Firefoth flieth thoo? [imdb.com]

      "Thyre rearwurdth mitthile, dammit!"
      [nothing happens]
      "Mmmmm.... Borscht!"
      [*KABOOM*, second Firefox burninated]
      "Better ithe up a cold one boyth, I'th comin' home!"

    • The device supplies vibrational feedback. Basically, if there is an oval object in front of the viewer, an oval-shaped buzzing is felt on the tongue. The tongue is apparently sensitive enough to distinguish from a 20x20 array of pixels.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:40PM (#10899291)
    Everything either feels, tastes, or smells like chicken.
  • Oh dear (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:44PM (#10899331)
    From the article:

    Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements.

    A whole new range of experiences for surgeons performing coloscopies, no doubt.
  • by eric2hill (33085) <eric@i[ ]k.net ['jac' in gap]> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:45PM (#10899350) Homepage
    Fey work gweaf an I can feel ftuff I nefer fought I could!
  • by RedLaggedTeut (216304) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:46PM (#10899363) Homepage Journal
    Here's a basic summary, in case the site gets slashdotted or in case you lost your senses of reading:

    The method used is called sensory substitution.
    That is, one sense can be used to emulate the input that is usually provided by another sense. The tongue is one of the best places for input.

    You have to wear the substitution device for it to work, although it is speculated that by training the brain areas for the lost sense, the working of that area can be improved, so it just might help restore a sense in the situation where the organ not working is parts of the brain.

    I'd like to add that I heard blind people can go mad when you try to feed them visual stimuli through the eye nerves, probably because these brain parts have taken on other roles. I'd therefore like to suggest that babies born blind are provided with artificial visual stimuli, so that this part of the brain learns to work and can later operate fully, when there is the technology to provide fully working artificial eyes.
    • I'd like to add that I heard blind people can go mad when you try to feed them visual stimuli through the eye nerves...


      This is incorrect. Research has shown that the optic nerve can be directly stimulated to produce simple images.

      On a related note, direct overstimulation of the optic nerve can result in siezures. This may be what you heard.
    • So, in essence, you are proposing that humans born with no vision should be given the equivilant of a "screen saver" so that their visual centers of the brain to dont atrofy? Would this not inhibbit their ability to overdevelop their other senses (i.e. touch, hearing etc.) to compensate?

      Bad idea methinks.
      • Inhibit...no.

        Overdeveloping happens when you adjust to the conditions around you so that you can continue to function.

        If this doesn't actually provide better real sensory input, they'd still develop other abilities to compensate. If it does, then they don't need them.

        I suppose you could say, "but then what would they do without the machine?" Well, a lot of people can't see without glasses. Should they be forced to not wear them so that their other senses can develop more fully? It seems always better
      • I don't think about a screen saver, but a camera and live input. You could also try active sonar, if you are so interested in developing other senses.

        I was also thinking of brain implants, but The vOICe [seeingwithsound.com], which is similar to the website in the /. lead, changed my mind.

        I think you are glorifying being blind out of PC'ness. I believe a blind with a sensory replacement aid will develop whatever senses they need just fine even if you give them another sense to work with.

        I mean, it is fine to be able to per

    • by Anonymous Coward
      There's more to the brainport than sensory substitution. By using an alternate pathway (ie, the tongue) for a damaged sensory input (ie, vestibular organ & balance), it provides a connection for the brain to strengthen the few neurons that still remain. End result: it can possibly restore the damaged sense.

      This is why the lady who lost her sense of balance was able to go outside & dance around WITHOUT THE HELMET after the initial trial. Dr. Bach-y-Rita has a promo video showing this; I couldn't
    • The tongue is one of the best places for input.

      Is there anyone else here who immediately thought, "Yeah, he's right. I had tortellini for lunch, and it wouldn't have tasted as good anywhere else...."

  • by FluffyPanda (821763) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:46PM (#10899365)
    It seems like a great breakthrough for the poor woman who lost her sense of balance, but the suggested uses?

    Pilots confused by foggy conditions, in which the horizon disappears, can right their aircraft by monitoring sensations on the tongue or trunk. Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements

    Sounds to me like an able bodied pilot or surgeon could just use the senses they already use. The pilot could still use the visual readout of the artificial horizon for example.

    Is this really destined for common usage?
    • Is this really destined for common usage?

      The article highlights the possibilities for blind people to regain some of their senses (There's a similar project [mindgames.mle.ie] focusing on allowing blind and deaf people 'see' and 'hear' though their tongues.)
      So maybe not common usage but not as far out as some of the other examples given.
    • Take someone who has normal vision. Put a camera on them facing backwards and hook it up via brainport.

      Will the brain be able to interpret the forward and rearward vision simultaneously? Would a person be able to develop 360' vision? Even if not, I'd still like to have my own "rear view mirror" :)

      There could be a huge market in wedgie prevention. :)

  • by leereyno (32197) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:48PM (#10899384) Homepage Journal
    That someone is going to apply this to their nether-regions, if they haven't already.

  • Ralph says (Score:5, Funny)

    by WoodenRobot (726910) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:49PM (#10899401) Homepage
    "It tastes like ... burning"
  • The latest product from the makers of Viagra....

    -m
  • More info (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sai Babu (827212) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:54PM (#10899472) Homepage
    Older version of tongue interface [sciencenews.org].

    University of Montreal news release [sciencedaily.com]

    But wait, there's more cooler brain interfacing going on! Mystic Visions [nwbotanicals.org]

    I see, in the very near future, big wads of $100 bills moving into my pocket from users of the APE(TM) helmet. A Psychedelic Experience! Users don the APE helmet and the core moderating frequencies of the brain are modulated to produce everything from the mystic experience (sans the nasty side effects of peyote, psylocibin, or X) to a full blown emulation of a trip on the finest of Dr. Hofmann's [isyours.com] concotions.

    Franchise options available NOW!

  • by delta_avi_delta (813412) <dave...murphy@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @12:55PM (#10899480)
    I hope that this leads the way to sensory prosthetics. People are looking into ways to directly control prosthetics using signals from the brain, but a major difficulty for people with prosthetics is how to use a limb that has no sensory output whatsoever. Anyone who has ever had their leg "fall asleep" on them, and tried to walk it off will begin to appreciate the difficulties involved.

  • You realize of course that this puts us one step closer to Smell-O-Vision.

    Of course the pottential for abuse seems even greater with Taste-O-Vision.

  • Cheryl Schiltz vividly recalls the morning she became a wobbler

    I have become a wobbler many times, or so I am told, usually after a large intake of Guinness and JD. Unfortunately however I am never able to remember this world turns wobbly point.
  • by east coast (590680) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:01PM (#10899551)
    Something about the size of a postage stamp, put on the tounge, and it brgins back lost sensations? I think Timothy Leary was heading down this very path a few years back...
  • by LooseCannon74502181 (665816) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:03PM (#10899567)
    The writers from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension should sue for stolen IP. Lizardo was using that thing 20 years ago.
  • Now I can finally see better around the bar when I'm trying to pick up hawt girls. I'm sure they'll love the hat!
  • Problem with putting stuff in your mouth is choking on it.

    They even mentioned military use. Imagine colliding into something and choking to death on the gizmo.

    Why don't they just stick the stuff into a suitable part of the brain and let the brain figure it out? Yah I know the brain moves around, let the thing move and flex around with the brain too then - and make it the same density as the brain tissue.

    I was actually thinking about this more than 10 years ago - but then I was thinking it'd work if you p
    • The big problem with just "sticking the stuff into a suitable part of the brain" (besides the question of whether or not the brain would figure it out) is that you're massively increasing the risk of dangerous infections.
    • Heh, there's another obvious place to attach these devices... Just as sensitive, not needed for eating. Having the candy striper or nurse attach the device would be fun (or the doctor, if that's your thing). The only problem will be the loud gasps of excitement from the wearers when some visual stimulus appears (say a big red truck or a rainbow). You'll appear sensitive because you'll with excitement when a baby screams kick off the sensors...
  • by multiplexo (27356) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @01:33PM (#10899934) Journal
    work better to restore a sense of vision than do earlier attempts to restore the sense of taste by dripping Tabasco [tabasco.com] into people's eyeballs.

  • Kevin Warwick (aka Captain Cyborg) gave a guest lecture at my university about 3 weeks ago. In it he discussed the implant he had placed on to a nerve in his arm, and the attempts he made to link electronic devices to his nervous system.

    One interesting (at least to me) part was an experiment where he linked an ultrasonic distance sensor (worn on a hat) to his arm. As something got closer, the pulses became more rapid.

    With his eyes open, he could sense the pulses, but not really make sense of them. When
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:03PM (#10900354)
    In recent years, science fiction has suffered a great decline in quality of content, in no small part due to the excessive commercialization of unimaginative "world of..." series.

    So science has had to look to other forms of art for inspiration and development of new technologies. Scientists at Brain-Port Inc have found their new beacon of innovation in that aging rocker, Ozzy Osbourne.

    During the development of the Brain-Port tonque interface, it was code-named the "Fly High Helmet" after Ozzy's song, "Fly High Again" in which he asked the question -- "Swallowing colors of the sound I hear, am I just a crazy guy?"

    Brain-Port is rumoured to be working on another product which they are calling the "Hagar Helmet." Expected to be a huge boon to the auto insurance industry, the Hagar Helmet is designed to prevent the wearer from exceeding the speed limit. The exact mechanism by which it ensures that the wearer can only drive 55 is considered one of Brain-Port's most valuable trade secrets.
  • the IP perspective (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wes33 (698200) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:07PM (#10900423)
    Maybe this is great work, but it bothers me that the professor can spin off a company to market this product which the university has patented.

    Bear in mind that the good professor was supported by public money to do this research and the Univ. of Wisconsin similarly is state funded.

    It seems just plain obvious to me that this research belongs to those who paid for it -- the public.

    The idea that a university takes public money to use as venture capital with intent to profit is repulsive. Of course, it happens all the time in those branches of academe which connect to marketable products. But that doesn't make it right.
    • So, you're saying that the university (i.e. the state) should risk taxpayer's money by setting up a manufacturing facility for this product? Or that noone should ever develop it? Or that professors should never do practical research?

      "The public" as a whole does not benefit from this product - individuals do. Likewise, the public as a whole does not manufacture it, sell it, buy it, repair it, or improve it.

      I don't know what the policies of the University of Wisconsin are, but it's likely they'll be getting

      • by wes33 (698200)
        "So, you're saying that the university (i.e. the state) should risk taxpayer's money by setting up a manufacturing facility for this product? Or that noone should ever develop it? Or that professors should never do practical research?"

        None of the above. The research is public and should be freely available to anybody. If somebody wants to make a product and sell it, fine. No patent protection on publically funded research.

        I think companies could make money this way if their product is good enough and,
  • by cr0sh (43134) on Tuesday November 23, 2004 @02:18PM (#10900597) Homepage
    It is speculated by Jeff Hawkins (of the Redwood Neuroscience Institute, but better known as the founder/designer of the Palm Pilot and Palm), in his book "On Intelligence" [rni.org], that - more or less - the brain is nothing more than a large pattern learning and playback system. He mentions (what is likely an older implementation) a similar system to this, which allowed a man who went blind at a young age (I believe it was 13) to regain his "sight" using such a system, well enough to recognize many items.

    The book goes into very great detail, but it presents a model of the neocortex fairly different from that of other models, while at the same time building upon earlier work (like neural networks). Hawkins isn't proposing to build a human mind, but rather an "artificial neocortex". He deliberately ignores (though while acknowledges them) the effects other areas of the brain has on the neocortex (I don't think it is because he thinks they don't have anything to do with thinking, or that they aren't needed - I think he simply wants to understand and be able to use the neocortex for machine thinking, which would be radically different from human). His model, while different in subtle ways, seems similar to experiments and devices Igor Aleksander [techdirections.com] has built (interestingly, you don't here much about this individual - he isn't presented in Hawkins' book, and other AI books I have read don't mention his work, either - I tend to wonder if these two individuals will go down like Charles Babbage did - thier work highly relevant, perhaps even precient - but not used because they became obscure - for instance, when ENIAC was designed and built, none of the people involved had heard of Babbage!).

    What is really crazy, and I hesitate to link it, because this individual is known as an extreme crank in AI circles - alright, those of you who know who I am talking about will know who I mean, so I won't mention him by name or moniker - is that Hawkins' ideas and model seem to be very similar (though developed in a different way) to that other individual's model. While Mr. M's model is convoluted, and serial like (with attendent streams of information flowing facilitating recall of thoughts/ideas/abstractions) - Mr. Hawkin's model of the neocortex is very similar in scope - only doing the same type of learning and recall using strict hierarchical, interrelated networks of neurons.

    He comes away showing how, in the neocortex, all patterns are the same, in that for instance, knowing how a sentence is written or spoken activates the same patterns. These patterns, while they are learned, and later played back - cause other patterns to fire off and playback (or be learned, if only slightly) - which is why a song or the taste of a certain food, sometimes brings back certain feelings and thoughts - because the playback of what the pattern of the taste of the food causes the same/similar triggers to cause playback of the patterns for those thoughts and feelings. The concept of feedback in learning is the important part...

    I encourage *everyone interested in this kind of computing* to pick up Hawkins' book, as well as Aleksander's book (and, I would implore you to (re)read Mr. M's ideas with a fresh mind, in the context of the models presented by Hawkins and Aleksander, and see if you don't agree that all seem to be studying similar paths in the same goal of what creates consciousness and intelligence - you may come back surprised)...

  • Loss of Senses (Score:2, Interesting)

    by morticus (642286)
    I recently sustained a massive head injury. I passed out and fell backwards out of a chair. The impact cracked my skull causing a hemorrhage on my brain and blew out my eardrum. My brain to sloshed around in my skull, pulling on the nerves that run to my nose's olfactory receptors. The resulting condition has been quite the experience for me. I haven't completely lost my sense of smell however it has shifted drastically. Almost nothing smells the same to me now. The best way to describe it is that certain l
    • I suffered a similar loss four years ago when my head met the floor after I encountered a frictionless surface, and some insensetive clod left the damn gravity turned on. In short, the nerve bundle between my brain and your olfactory sensor [yahoo.com] was squashed and strained as my brain imitated a superball bouncing around in a box.

      The nerve bundles do, according to my Neurologist, regenerate over time. "Time"being" being years and decades. Supplements of Zinc are thought to help.

      In four years, I've gone from sm

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