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Thursday, April 07, 2005
Sony Invention Beams Sights, Sounds Into Brain

If you think video games are engrossing now, just wait: PlayStation maker Sony Corp. has been granted a patent for beaming sensory information directly into the brain.

The technique could one day be used to create videogames in which you can smell, taste, and touch, or to help people who are blind or deaf.

The U.S. patent, granted to Sony researcher Thomas Dawson, describes a technique for aiming ultrasonic pulses at specific areas of the brain to induce ``sensory experiences'' such as smells, sounds and images.

``The pulsed ultrasonic signal alters the neural timing in the cortex,'' the patent states. ``No invasive surgery is needed to assist a person, such as a blind person, to view live and/or recorded images or hear sounds.''

According to New Scientist magazine, the first to report on the patent, Sony's technique could be an improvement over an existing non-surgical method known as transcranial magnetic stimulation. This activates nerves using rapidly changing magnetic fields, but cannot be focused on small groups of brain cells.

Niels Birbaumer, a neuroscientist at the University of Tuebingen in Germany, told New Scientist he had looked at the Sony patent and ``found it plausible.'' Birbaumer himself has developed a device that enables disabled people to communicate by reading their brain waves.

A Sony Electronics spokeswoman told the magazine that no experiments had been conducted, and that the patent ``was based on an inspiration that this may someday be the direction that technology will take us.''

From NY Times/Reuters

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