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Really Want To Plug Into The Matrix?

If you're as much of a tech "geek" as I am, you may as interested in the increasing attention Sony has received for a recent patent on a device that transmits sensory data directly into the brain. If this sounds a bit like recreating the universe described the Wachowski Brothers' Matrix film trilogy, you'd be right.

One big difference: The technique described in Sony's patent for sending images and sound to the brain is totally non-invasive. The devices sends ultrasound pulses to targeted portions for the brain that theoretically create sensory experiences -- site, sound and taste -- not entirely unlike those described by the characters "plugged into" the Matrix.

Currently, one of the more popular means to manipulate the brain non-invasively involves transcranial magnetic stimulation that activates nerves by using rapidly changing magnetic fields to stir up currents in the brain. The difference between this model and Sony's is all in the transmission: Ultrasounds can be focused in smaller areas of the brain but magnetic fields cannot.

One expert believes Sony's patent is credible, mainly because he developed a device that enables disabled people to communicate by reading their brain waves. Others feel the Sony patent could lead to new tools in medical and scientific research, if not a Matrix-style entertainment experience.

Just one question for you to think about: If small mobile phones emit radiation strong enough to grow acoustic neuromas in your head, what would that Matrix-style transcranial magnetic stimulation do to your nervous system?

I suspect nothing good.

New Scientist April 7, 2005

USA Today April 6, 2005

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