Artist ted krueger has done a number of projects
that are relevant=here he talks of providing
a sense of magnetism !!
ISEA 2002 STATEMENTS
Ted Krueger, Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute, Greene 106, 110 Eighth
Street, Troy, NY 12180-3704, U.S.A.
Based on a paper presented at ISEA
2002, 11th International Symposium
on Electronic Art, Nagoya, Japan,
2–31 October 2002.
Our experience of the world through
the normal complement of human
senses is one of great richness and
density; yet it is not comprehensive. We
are sensitive to a minor fraction of the
available spectra. Studies of animals
have shown them to possess a considerable
range of "exotic" sensory capabilities
. Health concerns about various
forms of radiation, magnetic and electric
fields and certain chemicals indicate
that there are additional aspects of
the environment that it may be in our
interest to apprehend. But beyond
utilitarian functionality, it is the potential
for perceiving a richer world that
drives our research into new sense
modalities at the Human Interface
Laboratory  of the Rensselaer Polytechnic
Over the last four decades, Paul
Bach-y-rita and his colleagues have
developed sensory substitution devices
that allow the blind to "see" through
the surface of the skin  by means of
electro-tactile transducers. For the
blind subject, these devices are essentially
a new sense modality. We suggest
that, in a similar way, we can create
novel sense modalities by using sensor
technologies that do not duplicate
human senses but respond instead to
things that our senses cannot
perceive—magnetic fields, for example.
Magnetic fields were chosen for our
initial projects because they can occur
at the scale of either an object or an
immersive environment, from the
perspective of the human body. Volitional
movements giving rise to the
perception of magnetic fields would
therefore differ for each of these scales.
Perceptual modes arise from the specific
sensorimotor contingencies that
govern them . In the case of the
earth's magnetic field, the contingency
is orientation, as the body is small compared
with the earth. The relevant
movements are locomotive. For objectscale
magnetic fields, such movements
are primarily exploratory, involving the
arm, hand and fingers. Two devices
have been fabricated in our laboratory
to test these hypotheses.
In one project, a magnetic sensor was
built into a pen-like probe  and its
output coupled to a tactile transducer
located on a subject's sternum (Fig. 1).
A complex grouping of permanent
magnets was used to test the ability of
the subject to perceive a complex magnetic
field as a spatial phenomenon
rather than a vibratory sensation on the
skin. With sufficient experience, the
subject experienced a transformation
of the focal awareness, and the magnetic
field was perceived in space. This
is similar to the way in which the sensation
of a tool in the hand becomes
transparent and the contact of the tool
with a surface enters one's awareness.
In the second project, an automotive
compass capable of sensing eight directions
was interfaced with pager vibrators
contained in an elastic belt 
(Fig. 1, left). Its purpose was to allow
the subject to perceive magnetic north
as an aid to navigation. That is, a person
wearing the belt would feel a vibration
in a position corresponding to
north. While effective in this task, the
belt also yielded the sensory experience
of large-scale magnetic fields surrounding
the electric motors of a commuter
train and the flux of current in the
power lines that fed them. These unanticipated
experiences are far more
interesting than the initial goal of the
project and illustrate the point that
there are additional dimensions of the
world available for perception if the
appropriate technology can be built.
The goal of this research trajectory is
to formulate the principles by which
arbitrarily chosen sensor technologies
might be interfaced to the body to yield
a veridical perception of the phenomena
References and Notes
1. H. Hughs, Sensory Exotica (Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press/Bradford Books, 1999).
2. The lab team consists of myself (the director), Seth
Cluett, Mason Juday and Raphael Varela.
3. P. Bach-y-Rita, Brain Mechanisms in Sensory Substitution
(New York: Academic Press, 1972); P. Bach-y-
Rita et al., "Seeing with the Brain," International
Journal of Human Computer Interaction 15 (2003)
4. J.K. O'Regan and A. Noe, "A Sensorimotor Account
of Vision and Visual Consciousness," Behavioral
and Brain Sciences 24, No. 5, 939–1011 (2001).
5. Constructed by Ted Krueger.
6. Constructed by Mason Juday.
322 LEONARDO, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 322–323, 2004 © 2004 ISAST
Fig. 1. Magnetic field perception devices: compass belt (left) and pen probe
© Ted Krueger)
Leonardo_37-4_265- 7/21/04 9:47 AM Page 322
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