Using technology to build brains and develop a ‘SixthSense’

The university recently posted a news story and Tweet about Dr. Chris Eliasmith’s impressive work in the area of Theoretical Neuroscience. His new book, How to Build a Brain, introduces Semantic Pointer Architecture (SPA), which provides a set of tools used for cognitive modelling. Using these tools Dr. Eliasmith and team have built the world's largest functional brain model, Spaun, which demonstrates the high-level neural activity of the brain as it completes several tasks (i.e. recognition and list memorization). I recommend that you explore the videos, documentation and tutorials found on the project’s website; the work is sure to ‘stretch your mind’.

It also got me thinking about the incredible advances that are possible with the use of technology.

Pranav Mistry was a keynote speaker at the CANHEIT 2013 conference hosted at the University of Ottawa in June. With an equally impressive academic and work history, Pranav calls himself a ‘Desigineer’, combining his love of technology and design and its impact on the world around us. Pranav shared some of the project details he has been working on, from allowing users to control lights and open doors using their smartphone, to conceptually transferring media from one digital device, through a users’ body to a second device, through simple touch gestures. 

One of the projects Pranav shared with conference participants was called ‘SixthSense’. The project website describes ‘SixthSense’ as:

“… a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. By using a camera and a tiny projector mounted in a pendant like wearable device, 'SixthSense' sees what you see and visually augments any surfaces or objects we are interacting with. It projects information onto surfaces, walls, and physical objects around us, and lets us interact with the projected information through natural hand gestures, arm movements, or our interaction with the object itself. 'SixthSense' attempts to free information from its confines by seamlessly integrating it with reality, and thus making the entire world your computer.”

Users can interact with a map, draw on a variety of surfaces using their fingertip, take images by making a ‘frame’ gesture with their hands, or even project a live news video stream onto a newspaper. Not only is Pranav’s work allowing the user to interact with the world around them at a deeper level, it’s making enormous strides in accessibility. With the help of an interested user, the ‘SixthSense’ device was adapted to recognize hand gestures and sounds made when signing, and translate them into audible words. Pretty amazing. Project videos, pictures and even instructions on building your own ‘SixthSense’ prototype device are available on Pranav’s website.

Technology is transforming our lives every day.

If you could use technology to improve an activity you complete during the day, what would it be?

Dave

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