Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sense Substitution

Two interesting products from the field of neural interfaces.

Both of them leverage the fact that our sensory organs are just transducers which give inputs to a really flexible and remarkable signal processing system called the brain. This makes it possible to use one sensory organ to achieve a similar result to that of another. Sensory substitution.

In a very indirect way, sign-language or braille could be considered as external sense substitutions. But these two instances that I came across thanks to Engadget and Google, a few months ago, are much more direct. Interestingly, this article from HowStuffWorks seems to suggest that folks have been trying this since the 1900s!

The first is called BrainPort (their corporate site talks about a more clinical use of their product).
Essentially, here vision is being substituted by taste!
Do watch the following video:

And heres the second one.
Check out this browser screenshot to know how I came across this ;-)

I think this (seeingwithsound) is a way cooler solution. The interface is much more natural and amenable to daily use. Well, here, vision is being substituted by stereo sound - almost sonar.

In case you want to try what this feels like, just download their free windows software winvoice, plug in your web cam and put on a stereo headset. Definitely has room for improvement, but I like the ease and simplicity it offers (they even have j2me, winmo and android mobile phone app versions!).

The best part - both of them are non-invasive, non-risky and do not cost a lot. I hope this helps a lot of people who really need it now. Certainly good news.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Eko rebranded

If you'd noticed, Eko has changed its colors and its logo over the past few days. Instead of orange, it now sports an earthy green and has a tail-piece (lets call it 'slash dash') added which makes it identify itself with the way most Indians sign off a cash amount while writing it on paper.

So adieu ol' logo

And a warm welcome to the new one

How do you find our new logo?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

William Kamkwamba: Building a windmill

The following is the 2009 TED talk by William Kamkwamba who simply set up a windmill in his backyard. Inspired by two library books (more by the cover on one), from a really constrained background, with a scrapyard for raw materials and despite the local skepticism and superstition, William did what he set out to do.

His simple message - to never give up. Do also scroll down to view his 2007 TED appearance.

And heres his TED appearance in 2007:

TED is simply amazing!

I think it would be great to have a TED equivalent on prime time media in India instead of some of those really crappy shows and weepy soaps. Imagine how many little sparks this could ignite across a country like ours (and indeed in many other countries as well). This enthusiasm needs to be made infectious.