Sensing with the brain

Marieke Rohde hopes to create “cyborgs” at the Cheltenham Science Festival (UK) next month.

Visitors to the festival will be able to try out cyborg experiments that turn vision upside down, let them see out of the back of their heads, convert sight into stomach vibrations – so they can see by “touch” – and swap high frequency sounds for low, etc. “We hope to get rid of the old idea that you see with the eyes and hear with the ears. It’s about sensing with the brain,” says engineer and “sonic artist” Sarah Angliss.


On June 8, three volunteers will be hooked up to electronics that will give them new sensory powers. For two days, they will adapt to life as a cyborg. One cyborg will feel magnetism. A second will “see” the world through a robot’s artificial eye. The third will sense metal objects hidden behind walls.

“The devices are cunningly simple, hacked together from mobile phone vibrators, burglar alarm spares, metal detectors and so on,” says Ms Angliss.

Until now, most experiments have kept to the five senses. The team is planning to equip one of their volunteers with an awareness of magnetism like other creatures. Dr Dylan Evans says: “The animal kingdom abounds with other, less familiar sensory modalities. Bats use sonar, Japanese eels can detect magnetic fields, and sharks are sensitive to the electric fields generated by fish.”

The hope is that human cyborgs may one day enter new sensory domains to know what it really feels like for a shark to encounter a school of fish, or for a bat to be trapped in a belfry.

The Cyborg Experiment will climax at the Cheltenham Science Festival on Friday June 10.

Via The Telegraph.