Editor's Note: Enhanced-reality devices like this will become more and more prevalent. This would work well with an immersive landscape-based game or other interactive situation.
I am beta testing a new sense. My new sensory organ is a small anklet strap with a LiPo battery and circuit board attached to an electronic compass on the anklet’s side. Inside the strap are eight small buzzers, up against my skin. As I sit here typing, the buzzer on the very left side of my left ankle is gently informing me which way is north. The anklet is called a Northpaw. My new sense is perfect direction.
The Northpaw is based on the Feelspace, a project organized by the Cognitive Psychology department of Universität Osnabrück in Germany. The principle is simple and elegant. The buzzers signal north to the wearer. The wearer gets used to it, often forgetting it’s there. They just start getting a better idea of where they are through a kind of subconscious dead reckoning. It started as a university experiment. They got the data, wound it up, and never intended to commercialize it.
Adam Skory liked the idea so much he wanted to make one for himself. He teamed up with some friends at the San Francisco hackspace Noisebridge and built it. In the process they decided that they might as well sell kits so others could make it more easily. Skory gave me version 1, and set me loose in San Francisco.
I think of myself as having a good sense of direction, and I do, in a way. It's just wrong most of the time. My north drifts quite far from magnetic north. But it's a consistent wander, still useful for navigation, if patently untrue. The Northpaw isn't perfect, this early version has the occasional bug and misplaced buzz, but it's better than I turn out to be. I had wrong assumption I didn't know about, my confidence in my cognitions misplaced.
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