THE SIXTH SENSE

We humans have 5 different senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. We get along quite well with the quality of those senses day-to-day. However, comparing the quality of those senses to those of other species, we might want to look away in shame. The average eagle spots a mouse from 300 feet away, the same distance from which our feline couch companion can hear a mouse treading across the floor and our dogs can pick a drug smuggler from a line of perfectly normal looking people using it’s nose. I personally cannot think of a species that tastes better than us, but there must be several (hence the succes of McDonalds). I guess the very picky koala has an edge. I am convinced that the mole rat and an earth worm certainly have a better sense of feel than us. Ever tried to catch one sneaking up on it?

There’s an app for that!

5 years ago no one would predict that throwing computing power into a magician’s hat while adding optical sensors, recording capabilities and geolocation tracking, would combine to something Frankenstein-like. Yet this is exactly what it did. I am writing this blogpost as i look at my iPhone and  i am starting too feel obsolete, but bare with me for a moment………….you’ve become obsolete too!

Human senses ‘ featuring’  your phone

HEARING: Imagine this; you drive along in your car and the radio plays a song that you like but cannot pinpoint. You try to remember the name of the song and it’s lyrics, but by the time you get home you’ve forgot both. Our brain proves inadequate in this situation. Luckily our phone are not. Shazam listenes to the song and provides you with the name of the song, the artist and even the version you listened to. Shazam’s hearing is absolute. By the way, check out the Google Translate app, which is pretty epic as well. It certainly beats most of us as at translating into multiple  (say 10) languages.

SIGHT: Google Goggles might see the same as you, but it can recognize what it sees much better than you. Waving your phone in front of a painting, Goggles almost always get’s the name and the artist right. Ok, not always, but the success rate is certainly higher than mine when confronted with European masters. Actually our phones can look beyond to what we are able to see. Layar unveils things that our eyes could never uncover by putting a virtual layer over our visionary lives.

TOUCH: Years ago there was an iPhone app that used it’s microphone to blow out candles by vibration. This time around it is upside down. An app turns vibration of speech into electricity. Fair enough, we humans can generate energy by moving, but by doing so we lose energy reserves as well. Hardly a perpetuum mobile. This technology charges your phone by just being itself. It charges by receiving speech.

SMELL: NASA has developed a chemical sniffing device that plugs into your phone. It can detect gas and a lot of other substances that our human noses would never detect. It could actually save our lives. What is your kick-ass life saving feature in hazardous situations? Mine is ‘run’ and scream: “Run for your lives!”.Ok a phone might be better of alarming groups of people by text messages or ‘push’ technology, but i challenge contemporary HAL‘s to do it with such drama as only we humans can.

Do we challenge anything intellectually, or are we intellectually challenged (by everything)?

Thank god for taste!

TASTE: we humans still have an edge here 😉 I challenge anyone to find an app that beats human smell. In 1997 humankind (or specifically Garry Kasparow) was beaten by a computer called Deep Blue. 14 Years onwards, we are being taken over by the sixth sense, our mobile phone, the device we created ourselves. Let’s all cling to our McDonalds-favouring taste to keep claiming superiority on this planet.

All of our senses may be marked as ‘average’ in comparison, but a lama’s spitting doesn’t stand a chance to our wit. Our intelligence is definitely superior to all creatures’ senses. We invented smoking, managed to distill cocaine from leaves, ‘light-bulbed’ the atomic bomb and outlawed the guy who told us the earth was a sphere. Considering this ‘thought leadership’, it’s no surprise than that no less than 65 years onwards we are overtaken intellectually by the iPhone. Wake up and smell the coffee!


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4 Comments

  1. In 2003 there was some progress in tasting: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4006-virtual-reality-conquers-sense-of-taste.html
    There are also sensors how can “taste” if the milk has gone bad: http://eprints.usm.my/3119/1/Monitoring_of_Milk_Quality_With_Disposable_Taste_Sensor.pdf

    Oxford university is discovering the tasting parts of our brains : http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/32/6/569.full

    there is also development is an electronic tongue already in 1998: http://iopscience.iop.org/0957-0233/9/12/001

    and ofcourse the taste sensor chips (2008) : http://122.249.91.209/myukk/Journal/Download.php?fn=SM0713.pdf

  2. Hi despicable native English speakers!
    I’m sorry, but like all English speaking people you are DEAD WRONG about five senses. EVERYBODY AND HIS DOG knows there are six, but every native english speaker is to lazy about the truth, or too intimidated (by what if I may ask you) to speak up and correct this. Well, I for one are not intimidated by any linguist, so here I go:

    1. Vision through the eye
    2. Hearing through the ear
    3. Smell through the nose
    4. Touch through the skin
    5. Taste through the tongue
    6. Equilibrium through the inner ear

    I told you, everybody knows this and everybody can count to six, except they won’t speak up about the facts, for some, I’m sure, intractable reason. Probably to keep the rest of us guessing (y’a gotta admire the French for hating the English.)
    I’m sure they’ll still be using the phrase sixth sense in a hundred years…

  3. Not sure what this is about, but you are DEAD WRONG on one thing for sure: I am no native English speaker. Moreover this blog is about mobile extending our senses, not about being right. Cheers!

    • Dear Capibaro,
      Unfortunately science is very much about being right, not about being popular or socially correct. I did not surmise that you were a native speaker, I was reflecting on the fact that the sixth sense is an English phrase for an additional sense, implying wrongly that there are actually 5 senses. I hold the Collective of Native English Speakers accountable for the fact they haven’t switched to the phrase Seventh Sense, which provides an even better alliteration besides acually being scientifically correct. The germans use that phrase in their language (I am not German). Now to show you just how important it can be to try and be correct, let’s look at the sixth sense of equilibrium in relation to the mobile extending our senses. I am typing this on an IPhone 4S, which has quite a delicate sense of equilibrium. It can sense its orientation in space, relative to the gravity field. It also can sense linear and rotational accelaration. This makes possible untold applications that replace, complement or augment our own sense of equilibrium. Trying to be right is important in science and for making progress! It’s bad for picking up girls, I have to admit.


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