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Looking for ideas for a synesthetic exploration project! Answered

I have a project I'm working on, the purpose of which is to create a kind of synthetic synesthesia by taking the information about different people normally interpreted by one sensory system, and transform the way in which the information is presented, such that it is being interpreted through a different sensory system. The most important thing to me is that there is some kind of legitimate scientific basis for the way in which the information is gathered and then reinterpreted.

So, for instance, one iteration of this project that I've done was, using litmus papers, I determined the pH of various people's saliva. I then took photos of each individual and also scanned each strip of litmus paper; I then color tinted each photo with the color from their litmus strip, and thus, one could "see" what that person tasted like.

What I'm looking for are ideas for sensory data collection. Or, really, even just data collection in general. I'm an artist by trade, and an amateur scientist by interest and inclination, so figuring out ways in which to reinterpret the data isn't something that I need as much help with. Particularly, I'm really stumped when it comes to measuring anything having to do with smell, and in specific, how to measure a given person's ability to detect smells (for instance, quantifying the extent of someone's hyperosmia). I know olfactometers and electronic noses exist, but have no idea as to how they work or how to get my hands on one w/ an art student budget. ;P

I got the idea to ask around here for suggestions after stumbling across this instructable for measuring muscle sounds.

Thanks for any help or advice you might be able to provide, and I hope you have a very lovely day! =D


I saw on TV a while ago a project that gave people new senses - volunteers were fitted with a belt that indicated north by taking the output of a digital compass and using it to control which part of the belt vibrated gently.

At first it was odd, but users wore it al the time, and soon got used to just knowing where north was.

Why not find out what people would like to sense, and find a way of giving them that sense?

Wifi signal strength? Altitude? Humidity?

Maybe a glove that measures the conductivity and pressure of another's handshake and gives a reading of their "personality"?

I saw a really awesome article on wired about a girl that had taken body modification to new extremes in some ways, various implants all DIY made - one that looked interesting was having tiny magnets implanted in her finger tips allowing her to feel magnetic fields around electronics.

She has plans for an inductively charging version of the compass belts you mention to be implanted in to her leg.

On a rather insane note two of the materials she found were good for the implants were hot glue and sugru.

The sugru made me laugh considering the number of things it's been found to work for...

Personally I would go for the ability to feel electromagnetic fields... Also if I ever need corneal transplants the idea of opting for the synthetic ones used long ago would be interesting, being able to see further in to the UV spectrum (saw an awesome story about using UV lights as signals and pensioners to watch them during WW2*)

*I think it was WW2 might have been another war...

That reminds me of when I first learned that ducks (well, most birds in general) have tetrachromatism, and I became very sad that I do not. =(

I'm an eejit, just read what you wrote, at first I assumed you were talking about the sense of direction bit then read tetrachromatism which sounds like you mean the UV thing, in which case...


It's "high definition" colour vision.

Humans are trichomate ("red", "blue" and "green"). Some unfortunates are bichromate (although, as a side-effect, they can see camoflage patterns standing out from the background), some monkeys are tetrachromate.

It gives a fuller spectrum of colour, not just into the UV, but the colours between as well.

Ah right, got it now... I take it bichromatism would be the cause of red/green colourblindness?

I would like to have that sense, but considering I have trouble sleeping if I'm pointing the wrong direction I'd say it might be a nuisance...