Sensory substitution, where one sense can be used to augment or replace another, has been studied for over 20 years — a concept that Sapien LLC aims to take mainstream with their Cthulhu Shield. This input device attaches directly to an Arduino Uno or Mega, enabling it to activate an array of electrodes inside the user’s tongue. And as the team’s Kickstarter campaign page puts it, “If you already have something in your mouth, why not use it to control your computer?”
Over time, alternate input sensations like this can be sent to the area of the brain that is normally activated for another sense, such hearing or sight, allowing a user to “hear” and even “see” with such a device. Because the tongue is so sensitive, and conveniently quite conductive thanks to its normally wet environment, users can tell between at least 14 different electrode points, or up to 99 depending on the individual.
This type of “tongue I/O” could be extremely useful to replace senses that are weakened or absent, and could even be employed for augmentation, such as sensing infrared or ultrasonic signals for example, or receiving updates from the Internet.
If you’d like to get started with this kind of sensing, the shield is currently on Kickstarter for $75, while various other hardware bundles are available at differing pledge levels. An Arduino library, example code, and the board schematic can be found on GitHub.