Knowing home

This story from Wired on how our senses can be remapped with sensory prosthetics is surreal - no pun intended.

For six weird weeks in the fall of 2004, UdoWächter had an unerring sense of direction. Every morning after he got out of the shower, Wächter, a sysadmin at the University of Osnabrück in Germany, put on a wide beige belt lined with 13 vibrating pads — the same weight-and-gear modules that make a cell phone judder. On the outside of the belt were a power supply and a sensor that detected Earth's magnetic field. Whichever buzzer was pointing north would go off. Constantly.

'It was slightly strange at first,' Wächter says, 'though on the bike, it was great.' He started to become more aware of the peregrinations he had to make while trying to reach a destination. 'I finally understood just how much roads actually wind,' he says.... Deep into the experiment, Wächter says, 'I suddenly realized that my perception had shifted. I had some kind of internal map of the city in my head. I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place.'


Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan