The March 23, 2017 Lecture was given by David Eagleman, neuroscientist, author, Guggenheim Fellow, and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stanford University. He also starred in the PBS series “The Brain”, an exploration of what we know about the human brain today. A highly awarded luminary across neuroscience, society, ethics, and education, Eagleman has also spun out several companies in neuroscience.
Eagleman presented “How to create new senses for humans” in his lecture, describing how “alternative” sensory inputs can be used to replace “missing” inputs or to create additional inputs in humans, allowing us to experience new kinds of feelings. Eagleman's research feeds sensory signals into the brain through atypical sensory pathways. In the words of Eagleman, deafness could be overcome by turning auditory information into a series of vibrating patterns on the torso. This is done via the VEST (the versatile extra-sensory transducer), a garment worn under the clothing. Applications of the VEST go far beyond deafness, and could incluide all kinds of information streams, including smell, prosthetics, drone, weather, stock market, or twitter data. Using this approach of sensory substitution, almost any kind of data can be translated through the skin – thus expanding the human sensory experience.