Theater of the Mind

Recently, I wrote about technology that would allow the human body to become a broadband network — so that you could transmit computer files to someone just by shaking his hand.

That was so three-weeks-ago.

Today I'm going to tell you about the latest from Sony. The Japanese company, known for its camcorders, game consoles, and awesome robots, has filed patents for technology that would be able to transmit sensory data directly into your brain.

It's not clear from the news reports as to whether Sony has actually invented this yet, or if it is just hoping it will soon. If it's the latter, that means two things: 1) Patent law has gone bonkers, and 2) I'm going to spend next week re-reading my sci-fi collection and filing patents on devices I hope to develop in the future.

Assuming Sony does have something viable though, it would be a fascinating development. Details are sketchy, but the idea seems to be that the device would use ultrasound pulses to stimulate the sensory processing bits of your brain. For example, to make you “hear” something, the device would stimulate the part of your brain that's in charge of processing what you sense with your ears.

What will this do for society?

Movies: Filmmakers try to create immersive experiences — combining pacing, visuals, and the soundtrack to transport you to another world. Now imagine a film with direct brain stimulation. No wait, imagine a film like Jurassic Park with direct brain stimulation. See the dinosaur on screen. Hear the growl from the surround sound speakers. “Smell” the dinosaur's bad breath.

Pro: Movies might actually be worth the ticket price.

Con: People with delicate hearts might have to avoid certain movies — imagine the coronary that would result if you suddenly “felt” a small dinosaur skittering across your lap.

Enhanced Senses: If the technology can be used to make you sense things that really aren't there, it could probably be used to help you sense real things better. You might see in a different spectrum — night vision without the bulky goggles. Or perhaps you could fine tune your hearing so the boss can't sneak up on you in the middle of a solitaire game.

Pro: No more crashing into closed doors or falling into the toilet during night trips to the bathroom.

Con: Your boss might have the same technology, allowing him to hear you criticizing him under your breath.

Diets: Jonesing for some chocolate cake? What if you could use the device to “taste” chocolate cake without actually eating it?

Pro: You really could have your cake and eat it too.

Con: We know from studies on hypnosis that telling the mind something has physical consequences. It would just figure that “virtually” eating goodies would lead to weight gain as well. Or in other words, “If I so much as look at a piece of cake, I gain 10 pounds.”

Learning: If we can beam sensations into your brain, we might learn how to beam memories and knowledge too.

Pro: You could brainload everything there is to know about advanced astrophysics before breakfast.

Con: There would be absolutely no escaping your neighbors' vacation photos if they set their device to broadcast.

To read more of Chandra's work, visit

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