VEST - sensory substitution for patients with hearing loss
Tom Spendlove posted on September 23, 2014 |
Eagleman Labs is developing a vest that will send electrical stimulation to the torso and allow deaf...

Scott Novich and David Eagleman have a problem with cochlear implants. Fifty million people in the world have some level of hearing loss and the only technology available to help the problem is cochlear implants.


Cochlear implants require invasive surgery to work, and are expensive, and don't always work for every patient. People born deaf who don't get implants until later in life can still have problems hearing.



Their solution is VEST - a sensory substitution neuroscience project. The wearable device is intended to send data to the brain through new paths, giving the brain new information.


Inspiration came from Paul Bach-y-Rita who performed a series of experiments in 1969. Blind people were able to understand projected images when the images were projected onto their lower backs.


VEST works by using your smart phone to absorb sound information and perform the signal processing. Sound is then converted into patterns of information on the skin. The information is then pushed from the torso into the brain and the brain interprets the data into sound.


The current estimate is that the VEST will cost the consumer about $2,000. Ideally after two weeks of wearing the vest the user will be able to take the vibrational patterns and be able to have a 'direct perceptual experience'.


Novich and Eagleman hope that VEST will be a cheap non-invasive solution to the problem of hearing loss, and that long term the project can change the way we see sensory perception. Funds raised from this Kickstarter campaign will be used to fund prototyping and graduate student salaries.


VEST is a project massive in scale and the benefit to society is potentially awesome. Novich and Eagleman are engaging speakers and the campaign video is very well done. The project has received approximately half of its funding goal and the funding period ends October 8, 2014.

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