Archive for August, 2010

More than what you say you feel

Posted: August 14, 2010 in Life, Tech, Thoughts
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Am sure everyone often pauses and thinks deep into crazy things at times. I just had such a moment. I was just thinking about inventions that have transformed the world as we know it today and I was also contemplating on some things that could make our lives a lot better.

We all know humans have five important abilities (what we often refer to as five senses). Some people do often claim they have the additional sixth sense which is arguable – Let’s not get into that here. The five abilities that humans have known to have mastered so far:

  • Ability to hear
  • Ability to see
  • Ability to feel
  • Ability to taste
  • Ability to smell

Thanks to our fore-fathers and their life changing inventions, we now live in a world in which it is possible to share some of these senses with others; even with someone who may be sitting right across the world. With the invention of telephones and radios, people were able to share what they hear to people far away from where they were. Imagine the delight a grand parent would have had the first time they could hear their dear grand children’s voices. Though at times it may not possible for them to physically be there to see those little ones blabber off to glory, the voices over a long distance telephone call would make a world of difference to them.

Then there was the ability to share what one saw. Inventions of cameras, televisions, webcams, etc. have transformed societies and living styles. I feel lucky to have been born in a generation in which I can capture what I see and share it so easily with anyone who needs to see it. “Pictures speak a thousand words” as they say. Imagine trying to explain in words about your recent trip you had to the most breathtaking place without the ability to share what you see!

I was just thinking how different my world would have been without the abilities of sharing just these two senses with the people I care. Then I was contemplating what was next? What about the next sense of feel/touch? Would it be useful for a doctor/surgeon operating remotely to have the ability to feel the texture or harness/softness of the tumor he is operating on remotely? Would it make a difference to a solider who is thousands of miles away in a battle field to have the ability to touch and feel his new-born baby? The world of communication would be lot different if this was possible; won’t it?

I was thinking on how could it be possible to share such a thing digitally right across the world. Since I use Photoshop many times, the coloring schemes came to my mind. Using the color picker tool I can point to anywhere in a picture and know what exact color it is in. This would give me digitized values of that particular color in various color schemes. RGB for instance is one of the most commonly used color schemes. Providing values to indicate how much of Red, Green and Blue is used, computers now have the ability to show many millions of colors. So if I have to tell a friend of mine that I am seeing a Red rose, I now have the ability to indicate to him/her how red the rose is. In other words we are now able to quantify sight in a way.

If we apply the same kind of scheme/logic to the sense of touch, there may be many more vectors/variables. Some of them I can think of right now:

  • Hotness/coldness
  • Roughness/smoothness
  • Hardness/Softness

What about digitized values for these parameters? With the combination of these values it would be a good starting point to at least share/simulate what it feels like to touch something. Am sure there would be lots of inventions and technologies in industrial and military field by now which would do similar things but it’s still not available for commercial/personal use. Getting to this point is one step closer to the ultimate step. Once humans have fully understood and mastered the working of human brain; may be we can take this to the next level. The information about what we touch and feel through our skin reaches our brains through electrical signals via nerves in our body. If someday, we fully understand what these exact signals are and how this information is sent across to the brain, we can use the digital values in the form of something like the touch scheme I described have above and translate the digitized information into brain signals to make the recipient feel something he is not actually touching.

Wishful thinking you say? 🙂