Most of us are familiar with the theories that as humans, we’ve lost some a number of the natural senses that our ancient ancestors used to employ, ranging from our current concept of a "sixth sense", to the 360 senses described in ancient Egyptian writings. While many of us get by with only five senses to guide us, a company called Cyborg Nest is developing an implant that will hopefully re-enable one of these ancient abilities.
As per the device’s name, North Sense’s aim is to recreate the ability to sense which way is north, an ability that our ancient ancestors are theorized to have had, allowing them to have a more developed feel for where they were in the world. The device, of which is attached to the outside of the wearer’s skin using a titanium dumbbell piercing, is a simple electronic compass that emits a vibration to let its wearer know when he or she is facing magnetic north.
"It is hard to put into words only a few hours after attaching the North Sense but the feeling I am left with is profound," exclaims Scott Cohen, one of Cyborg Nest’s co-founders. Along with fellow co-founder Liviu Babitz, he is testing one of the two North Sense prototypes. "The impact of immediately sensing my position created a permanent memory. I vaguely recall the colors and sounds in the room but I remember my position vividly."
Cyborg Nest’s members are no stranger to augmenting their senses with implants: artist Neil Harbisson has an antenna implanted in his skull "that allows him to perceive colours beyond the visual spectrum and connect to satellites to sense colours from space." Moon Ribas has implants in her arms, allowing her to feel the seismic activity of the earth and the Moon, prompted by information from seismic sensors connected via the internet. Harbisson and Ribas also run an organization called the Cyborg Foundation, dedicated to promoting the human rights and ethical aspects of technologically enhancing the human body.
One of the long-term goals for North Sense is to see if the new sense of orientation that is brought about in the wearer also brings about changes in how the brain and body interact with one-another, in regards to orientation — and perhaps, also in regards to how it affects the wearers’ sense of their relationship to the Earth itself.