[EAS] I Can See Clearly Now

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Apr 13 13:57:23 EDT 2005

(from INNOVATION, 13 April 2005)

       Sony Corp. hopes to break new ground in virtual sensory
experiences  thanks to a patent granted to Thomas Dawson, a
researcher working for the  entertainment giant. According to the
patent, using pulsed ultrasonic  signals aimed at the brain can
alter "the neural timing in the cortex. No  invasive surgery is
needed to assist a person, such as a blind person, to  view live
and/or recorded images or hear sounds." In addition to sounds and
images, the technique could be used to induce other "sensory
experiences,"  such as smells. A Sony Electronics spokeswoman says
that although no  experiments have yet been conducted, the patent
"was based on an  inspiration that this may someday be the direction
that technology will  take us." (Stuff 7 Apr 2005)

Inspiration without experiment, as the basis of patenting and
business planning, is clearly a growing trend, sort of a cozy way of
domesticating science fiction into daily life. We're "cozying up" to
a lot of "blue sky" ideas these days. It won't encourage any growth
of reasoned thinking -- but that's a complicated, stressful and
retrograde activity anyway.
What is perhaps more interesting, is that this domestication leads
to a bland and unimaginative science fiction, one not propelled by
the far reaches of science, but more like a pet that purrs when you
stroke it. There is no science in this science fiction. It is more
like an aspect of the "decorative arts." --PJK

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