Neuroplasticity allows our brains to process new kinds of information that we normally can’t. Blind people who use echolocation to navigate are a perfect example of this. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, TX, with the help of a team of Rice University undergrads, are hoping that the same can work for deaf people by substituting the tactile sense instead of hearing. The researchers created an electronic wearable VEST (Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer) that has an array of 24 vibration motors throughout its surface. Microphones on the vest pick up the sound around the person, which is then processed and translated into vibrations.
At first the researchers are focusing on human speech, hoping that perhaps it can be “heard” through vibrations on the torso. Their algorithms filter incoming audio so that only speech is translated into vibrations, In very early testing of the system with deaf people, some from birth, they showed that the volunteers were able to learn some words by recognizing patters of vibration.
Here’s a video with the researchers showing off the VEST:
Source: Rice University…