a hearing chair – retraining the senses

Reading Simon Ing’s book, The eye, I was intrigued to hear about the possibility of learning to ‘see’ through the skin on your back. It involved a ‘vest’ bearing a set of rods with little actuators, controlled by a camera & computer. An image from the camera was converted into a fairly low-res image in the computer, & the rods were then moved to press against the person’s skin in a pattern that reflected light & dark pixels.

Now it seems that a similar thing has been attempted with sound. Speakers embedded in the back & arms of a specially-built chair vibrate, stimulating touch sensors in the skin & allowing a deaf person sitting in the chair to ‘hear’ music through their skin. Different speakers are set up to transmit sound from different instruments & the system also modulates frequencies – very high-frequency sound vibrations can’t be detected in this way.

Sitting in such a chair would certainly be an interesting experience – & surely a more pleasant one than standing close to a car with one of those infuriating boom-box stereo systems blasting at full volume. (Or does that just reflect the prejudices of advancing age?)

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