DOW Senses: the VEST [Yr3| InteractiveDev]


David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and creator of the VEST brings out the perception of “Your senses limit your reality”. Take the electromagnetic radiation as an example, there are thousands or millions of radiation presence in our surroundings but human doesn’t have the biological receptors for taking in all those data and our vision only allows us to see certain range of colours.

Screenshot of Eagleman’s TED Talk Slides

Eagleman mentions our sensory tools “our ears, fingertips and our ears are merely plug-and-play device”, just like the potato head. The brain is the core and figures out “what to do with the data that comes in”. There are different kinds of peripheral devices in the animal world, e.g. snakes have heat pits to detect infrared and birds have magnetite to orient to the magnetic field of earth.

Screenshot of Eagleman's TED Talk Slides
Screenshot of Eagleman’s TED Talk Slides

He thinks beyond the human sensory perception available now(eyes, nose, ears, etc), and suggests new senses can be developed to process all sorts of information by using the wearable tech device to feel data and feed them into the brain.

The Vest is a versatile extra-sensory transducer wearable device. The idea is to introduce a sensory addition device, instead of common thoughts of sensory substitution, to expand the human umwelt. The device is inspired by Braille, a reading and writing system for blind persons in which the raised dots that can be read with the finger with the touch sense.

How it works

The app acts as a microphone and internet explorer for user to select what kind of information they would want to sense, e.g. a real life conversation/ stock market trends/ social media activities. It will then calculate the selected data and send to the wearable device.

On the VEST that users wear around their torso, there are 32 vibrating motors and 48 transducers to create dynamic vibration patterns when real-time signal send in through the mobile app. It reflects sound through vibration.

According to the vibration patterns, users would require to decipher and reform the message in their brain.


    • Converting signals or feedback that human can’t sense yet to series of vibration, allowing human to “see” beyond their senses.
    • It creates a new way to sense. Eagleman’s lab had gone through user testings with their prototypes. After 5 days of training and learning,  a 37-year-old deaf user was able to understand simple words that said to him by feeling the vibration created by the VEST. Eagleman mentions, “his brain is starting to unlock what the data mean.” The testing result went well testing with deaf users, who have higher reliance on sense of touch.
    • Creating an alternative cheaper solution for deafness than the invasive surgically cochlear implant. The surgery costs around $150,000 sgd with a few weeks of recovery time and the VEST is a wearable tech costing a much more affordable price of $2000. This technology allows mass-product and gives deaf people in poor countries chances to “see” with their skin.


    • Just like Braille, it is a new language that user needs to learn and train to be able to understand the message sends, with minimum 3 months for higher accuracy
    • This product mainly target blind people, who has heightened sense of hearing, smell and touch. An ordinary user like you and me require long learning period to understand the dynamic vibration language
    • While user may be able to recognize words through vibration in a laboratory, it is harder for them to understand an actual conservation when user are in a noisy environment. The device is not capable of auto-filtering out the unwanted information during real-time data processing.
    • Require multi-tasking when using this product to analyse sensation received. Difficulty in decipher.
    • The current require a large skin area for sensing information send in. Yet, human back has relatively lower touch sensitivity compared to fingers or hands.
    • There is still rooms of improvements for it to work stable enough to sell globally. The current success support the team to further research and create more mature prototype.

Personal Thoughts

The VEST offers a new technology of “seeing” the surroundings with sensory addition that our biological peripheral devices can’t sense. It is a very mind-blown and inspiring idea that could possibly developed into a mature device that everyone would able to purchase globally, just like the development of mobile phone, television and the internet. It is a new way to obtain information. I am fascinated by this wearable device and hope to see it improved and developed to a great extend so ordinary people like me can learn the VEST vibration  language and be able to “see” with my skin.

In addition, I found this device’s concept has a similarity with my Multi-modal sketch ” Feel my Message”, which is also inspired by the Braille system and gives real-time information to user. I think this concept will be trendy in the next 20 years.

More information about this device



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This Smart Vest Lets the Deaf ‘Hear’ With Their Skin

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