How would you like little electronic impulses to guide you on your way? Never mind the nudge of hunches and intuition. Forget the danger and bother of attending to Siri’s synthetic voice and frequently faulty instructions. Why not wear your directional signals in your underwear – in advance of getting them implanted – for streamlined living and flawless navigation?
A group of researchers from three universities in Germany are exploring the feasibility of developing ‘human cruise control.’ By placing electrodes on subjects’ thigh muscles – connected to an electrical muscle stimulation device and a Bluetooth-equipped control board – they’ve already demonstrated that they can remotely guide people to take a particular path through a park.
Prior to that, the researchers used electrical impulses attached to the thigh to guide blindfolded people through an indoor facility. Next steps will be to improve the precision of the electronic impulses, to automate the system so that it doesn’t require another human being to operate it at a distance, and make the sensors more compact and comfortably wearable. The researchers just presented their findings in Seoul, Korea at the 2015 human-computer interaction conference.
Clearly, there’s an upside to the merging of technology with humanity. Human cruise control can make it possible to find your way without the distraction of having to pay attention to your smartphone. It can certainly be useful to the blind. And it can help with rescue operations following a major disaster.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba have been developing CrashAlert, an app that will make texting while walking less of a hazard – through a depth-sensing camera that alerts smartphone users of upcoming obstacles. And the Apple Watch already provides wearers with a sensation on the wrist when they need to turn to the right or left.
We know there is no end in sight to the positive possibilities – and scary scenarios. Let’s just hope that more and more of us endeavor to discover and develop our own, innate capabilities before we’ve outsourced all our smarts to computer-operated technology.