You've probably heard about synaesthesia, the glamorous neurological condition in which people's senses get swapped so that they smell colors and feel words. Now a group of roboticists and bioengineers have got a working prototype of a little machine that gives you the synaesthetic ability to feel things you see. This tiny device attaches to your fingertip, using a camera to translate visual images into feelings by activating a little vibrator attached to the sensitive nerves in your finger. So you wave your hands around and "feel" objects across the street.
The creators of this device, called the Fingersight, write:
Extending the hand's innate ability, we mount miniature cameras on individual fingertips, permitting rapid sweeping through the 3D visual environment at greater distances. The information gleaned from each fingertip camera is fed back to that finger by a small vibrator, so the sense of touch remains related to each finger's individual interaction with the environment. Metaphorically speaking, we have given eyesight to the fingers, and thus we call the resulting capability, "Fingersight."
They've been working on this device and demoing it at conferences for about a year. Can't wait for the consumer version. Whoa, man, I can FEEL the colors on that chair across the room. No really, I can.
Fingersight [IEEE Xplore]