04 December 2007

Evolving Perception: Tele-Synesthesia and Touch Technology

How are human beings adapting to increasingly virtual environments? Belgian artist and founder of the Belgian Synesthesia Association, Dr Hugo Heyrman, has devoted 40 years to studying and experimenting with perception. His terms 'tele-senses' and 'tele-synesthesia' describe how our senses are merging with and enhanced by interactive technology.

In synesthesia, neurological cross-wiring causes senses to mingle, often with exotic effect. However, we also know that one sense links to other senses by association. In cybermedia, and touch-technology in particular, the boundaries between the internal and external, between the what is here and what is there, become confused. Our senses become 'tele-senses' - enhanced and extended in cyberspace ('tele' means 'far' in Greek). As interactive multimedia and electronic networks create uncharted possibilities of interconnection, we are enabled to expand the reach of our sensorial perception.

'Tele-synesthesia' is the synesthetic principle that is expanded and extended by means of new media: the traveling senses. It is defined as virtual interactions between the tele-senses, developed by means of new technological means in order to overcome the constraints of the human senses.

This is fast becoming reality, and in some cases, aesthetically and conceptually beautiful. Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel has developed a highly sophisticated, interactive multi-touch technology with multiple user capacity. Each pixel is a touch sensor, providing an infinite number of points that can be captured and manipulated by the user.

The user (or users) simultaneously employs fingers, hands and arms on large-scale screens, collaborating parts of the brain used for interaction with physical objects.
"By synchronising images, sound, movement and haptic experiences, electronic media are able to bring about the intermingling and fusion of one medium into another, resulting in making colours audible, visualising sound and making words palpable... Future libraries will become brain banks instead of book banks, synesthetic archives: an interactive multimedia integration of the visual, the kinetic, the haptic, the sonic, and the telematic."
In terms of adapting to virtual environments & multi-sensory learning, Heyrman concludes that synesthetes, 'Homo Futuris', have a head start on the rest of us: "because with the futuristic, telematic extension of the human senses, everything will become more and more synesthetic."

Customizing Sensory Reality
Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes
Fusiform Gyrus Sounds good

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