Basic BCI's (Brain computer interfaces) have been available for quite a while now and allow users to preform rudimentary tasks such as moving prosthetic limbs with force-feedback or moving a mouse on a screen through only neural impulses.

I'm interested if anyone has performed experiments in the direction of adding non-native extra senses to a creature using a neural interface/BCI. For example, feeding a magnetometer's sensor reading or clock data into a BCI and using that to give the person/creature a "sense" of magnetic fields or exact time.


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Short answer

This subject touches upon a related technologie, namely sensory substitution, where a lost sense is replaced by a still functional sense, for instance:

  • The BrainPort developed by Wicab that lets blind people taste light (Fig. 1) (Stronks et al., 2016).
  • The, now discontinued, yet still highly popular Optacon device developed by Telesensory Systems that allows blind folks to scan a normal printed book page with a camera and read it back through braille input via this device (Stronks et al 2016).

However, you are specifically asking for devices that add novel sensory information, referred to as sensory augmentation, or sensory enhancement. The technique of sensory substitution can,quite obviously, be easily extended to add novel sensory perceptions, simply by using a sensor capable of sensing stimuli that the human sensory systems cannot, for example magnetism, infrared light and what not, for instance:

- Schumann & O'Reagan, Sci Rep (2017); 7: 42197
- Stronks et al., Brain Res (2015); 1624: 140–52
- Stronks et al.., Exp Rev Med Dev (2016); 13(10): 919–31
- Thomson et al., Nature Communications (2013); 4: 1482

Fig. 1. BrainPort V100 vision substitution device. source: Plaid Zebra


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