Image from the Wired article on magnets implanted in fingertips.

This slide and the next couple aren’t strictly relevant, but I wanted to show them anyhow.

You can see I’ve been doing some reading into the senses and how they work. That’s because, if I’m trying to design to fit in with how people perceive, I should know that vision tends to work to identify objects, sounds tend to be used as an awareness of something happening, and smells are an awareness of the insides of things—smells look past names. Anyway, I gave a talk about this recently, called “Making Senses”, and it’s online if you Google for it (Making Senses at reboot8).

One of the senses I heard about was a magnetic sense. These body modification guys were putting magnets in their fingertips, hoping to use them to magically pick up metal gadgets.

What they actually found was that it gave them a sense of electromagnetic fields. They could feel the motors in the rollers at supermarket checkout counters. They could feel electric locks move. They could feel the insides of computers, where the stuff was happening.

I love this because it’s not sight. Technologists spend a lot of time representing readings with lights and status bars. But these folks can feel things happening. They can feel verbs! How do they use it; how will it be used in the future? I have no idea. But in this age of ubicomp, with all the information around us, to make sense of it all, as Martin Wentzer said, we’ll need super senses.

Matt Webb, S&W, posted 2006-07-14 (talk on 2006-07-13)