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MIT Demos Wearable Sixth Sense at TED

| 12 Mar 2009 17:15

The talk of the town for this year's TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference was a wearable gadget that gave its wearer a sort of sixth sense - instantaneous information.

If you've ever seen a video of a TED presentation before, you'll likely know that they can usually be two things: very cool, but often very, very dry and long. With that in mind, if you want to watch the beginning, by all means go ahead, but it doesn't get really interesting until the 2:30 mark. If you want to just see the absolute coolest part of the video, skip to 5:00 for the mind-blowing.

Here's the gist of it: a lab at MIT run by a woman named Pattie Maes and a team led by Pranav Mistry has developed technology to give people a sort of sixth sense - and we don't mean the "I see dead people" kind, either. In this age of widespread information, it's easy to say, go home and look someone you've just met up on Facebook to find out about them, or to research what the best product value is at the supermarket - but you can't really do that on the fly, even with internet access via cell phones.

So what the sixth sense does, is it combines a projector/mirror with a webcam, with all the Internet connection / processing handled by an average cell phone. Not only can you manipulate information with just your fingers on any surface whatsoever - even your hand - but the idea is to provide instantaneous and automatic information on the go.

Meet someone new, and a word cloud from their Facebook page will appear. Look at different brands of toilet paper to have it instantly tell you what the most eco-friendly brand is. Glance at your boarding pass while in the taxi to find out if your flight was delayed or not.

Sure, it might not be fashionable (and let's face it, but having someone notice a word cloud appearing on their chest would be pretty awkward) and it's still early on in development, but the potential here is mindblowing. Also, kinda scary.

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