Quick guess, how many human senses are there?
If you said 5, you’d be wrong. There are at least five, of course, that we traditionally know as sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. But in addition to these traditional five, there are also the lesser known ones, with great potential for future output / input devices for computers. Intrigued?
Balance and Acceleration
Thanks to the vestibular system, we can tell when we are off balance. We can also tell which way is up, and which way is doing. In computer terms, this is our human accelerometer.
This tells us which way we’re moving, and lets us feel the force and direction of acceleration.
The vestibular system is already being incorporated into computer machines. Think of
The Back to the Future Ride. This ride incorporates vestibular stimulation by moving the ride forwards and backwards. This increases the reality of the experience, and makes it feel as though we are flying.
This is how we can tell if something is hot, or cold. Future devices could incorporate a way of telling the status of the computer based upon a heat map.
Get an email? Rather than seeing a new icon pop up on your computer, why not have a blast of warm air through your keyboard? It wouldn’t add any new information to the limited bandwidth available through your screen. And yet it would provide you instant feedback.
Is your computer using a lot of CPU resources? How about networking resources? Why not have a heat map to instantly tell which pieces of hardware are under what type of load?
Close your eyes and clap your hands. Kinesthetic sense lets you know where your body parts are, relative to one another.
What’s incredible about this sense is that by manipulating it, we can change how big or small your physically feel! Imagine being able to grow to the size of a planet in a simulation, or the size of a whale! This experience will be possible with the manipulation of our kinesthetic senses.
In fact, there’s a neat experiment you can do to play with your Kinesthetic sense. It’s called the Pinocchio Illusion.
Believe it or not, pain is distinctly different from the feelings of touch. In fact, there are even at least 3 different types of physical pain. They occur on the skin, in the joints and bones, and in the body organs.
So what sort of a twisted machine would manipulate pain as a way of communicating with a human?
Why not have a device for battle, to manipulate feelings of pain without the side effects of death? The military could use pain and kinesthetic sense to transform people into the machines which they inhabit. A scary thought maybe, but a potentially real and important application.
We sense the magnetic field of the planet. We can tell our direction based upon this very subtle field. This blows my mind, and of course, it has one very specific use case to our future devices.
In space travel, even though most humans wouldn’t be in charge of navigation, having a sense of direction may be beneficial. Of course, that’s just guessing, but I think it could be a potential application.
Honestly, I think this is one sense we especially dull down in our urban/suburban lifestyles. We don’t normally rely on a sense of direction in our every day functions, the same way someone in the forest would.