Thursday, May 14, 2009


I want to be a cyborg so very much. There are so many ways we, as humans, measure out our world. There are also so many simple ways (and some not so simple, but quite effective) we could have those measurements at our fingertips every second of the day. They exist now, and they're fairly inexpensive. Here are some ideas:

  1. Compass: Through use of a device dubbed the "feelSpace belt", people are constantly aware of which direction is north. People who use the belt for a significant amount of time claim to have a vastly improved sense of direction, as well. An acquaintance of mine in San Francisco was working on an anklet version, and I want either device (belt or anklet) desperately.

  2. Magnetic Fingertip: Journalist Quinn Norton had a magnet implanted in her ring finger, an experience she wrote about for Wired Magazine. The implanted magnet made her suddenly aware of the electric and magnetic forces at work around her every day. There were unfortunate complications for her and others, but I hope greatly that those complications will be overcome, allowing anyone interested to start feeling electromagnetic fields.

  3. Impeccable Timing: A simple worn device that would administer a very weak electric shock at precise one-second intervals seems quite easy to create. Heck, for a while electrical muscle stimulators for abdominal toning were all the rage; one could probably hack an ab belt's interval and voltage on the cheap. Also, it's not as though a quartz clock is prohibitively expensive.

  4. Instant Night Vision: This one is blindingly simple, because all it requires is an eyepatch. If one eye is exposed to constant darkness, its pupil will stay open and its rods will not be saturated with light. A simple switch of the eyepatch when entering a lower-light area lets the ready eye absorb all the light it's capable of seeing. Even the Mythbusters have labelled this "probable"; Adam and Jamie experienced the difference an eyepatch makes.

  5. Wi-Finder: Shirts already do this. It wouldn't be hard to fit them with a small piezoelectric buzzer or such so that you'd be aware of the signal without staring down at your chest.

  6. Fingertip Laser Rangefinder: Imagine, as a builder or engineer, how wonderful it would be to simply squeeze a device on the back of your finger or hand, point down a board or a beam at a piece of paper, and get the distance from fingertip to paper. I'm not sure if laser rangefinding devices are small enough for this sort of thing yet, but if there was demand it seems certain that manufacturers would find a way to miniaturize them. They already exist in handheld form and are used in several sports; the public simply needs to call for versions that are successively smaller. Find a way to pair it with an ultrasonic tape measure and you'd have measurements for distances large and small.

  7. Level Glove: Another useful one for anyone performing a building project. Lay your finger flat against the appropriate surface and check the bubble for your reading. This wouldn't even need to be a glove; a short tube and two, maybe four elastic straps to hold it to a finger would probably suffice. (Sure, your iPhone or Android-equipped phone probably has an app for this, but it's hard to wear a phone on your hand all day on a job site.)

  8. Steady Step: When walking long distances, humans have to struggle to regulate their gait to maintain a straight line. A pair of aligned, hip- or chest-mounted lasers pointed at the ground could provide measured positions for a hiker's or a soldier's next footfall.

These are just simple ideas V. and I had in the car as we talked. Men like
Thad Starner are so far beyond these ideas that it's a little mind-boggling. In any case, I think I'll have to start a few of these projects sometime soon!

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