Computer Interfaces: Tech's Next Great Frontier

Next-gen interfaces offer a chance to see with the tongue, among other sensory experiences
Photograph illustration by 731; David: David Silverman/Getty Images; Google Glass: Reuters

Consider the tongue. It’s sensitive yet muscular, packed with taste buds and nerves, and without its acrobatic ability humans wouldn’t be able to eat or talk. It’s also our most versatile sense organ, and some computer engineers say it’s underused. Wicab, a Middleton (Wis.)-based company, has designed a small, square array of electrodes for the blind. When placed on the tongue like a lollipop, it turns the feed from a video camera into a pointillist pattern of tactile stimulation. The sensation is like sparkling water, or Pop Rocks candy, but after time and practice, blind users report the paradoxical sensation of seeing with their tongues.

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