Prosthetic Sensor Networks: Factoring attention, proprioception, and sensory coding


Sensor networks permeate our built and natural environments, but our means for interfacing to the resultant data streams have not evolved much beyond HCI and information visualization. Researchers have long experimented with wearable sensors and actuators on the body as assistive devices. A user's neuroplasticity can, under certain conditions, transcend sensory substitution to enable perceptual-level cognition of "extrasensory" stimuli delivered through existing sensory channels. But there remains a huge gap between data and human sensory experience. We are exploring the space between sensor networks and human augmentation, in which distributed sensors become sensory prostheses. In contrast, user interfaces are substantially unincorporated by the body, our relationship to them never fully pre-attentive. Attention and proprioception are key, not only to moderate and direct stimuli, but also to enable users to move through the world naturally, attending to the sensory modalities relevant to their specific contexts.