Sony Patent Details 'Matrix'-Like Brain Stimulation System
By Jay Lyman
Part of the ECT News Network
04/07/05 11:17 AM PT
Sony's prophetic technology could be the basis for a system that
allows users to experience various sensations, including sight, taste,
smell or sound, the patent states. The company described the
technology as speculative work, and conceded there have been no
experiments with it yet -- and no prototype device exists.
Winning comparison to Hollywood technological thrillers such as "The
Matrix" and "Brainstorm," a new, as-yet theoretical technology
patented by Sony (NYSE: SNE) Latest News about Sony is based on
neurological sensory stimulation of the human brain, allowing people
to touch, taste and smell in a virtual sense.
As reported by New Scientist, the technology is non-invasive,
requiring no implants or wiring to the brain, instead relying on an
ultrasonic system that would stimulate the cerebral cortex.
Speculation on the technology indicates it could potentially serve to
provide realistic vision for the blind, sound for the deaf, or extreme
gaming and moviegoing experiences.
However, technology analysts are saying that the technology, while
very interesting, is decades away in a practical sense -- and truly
realistic virtual-reality applications remain elusive.
"It's unlikely it will result in anything useful in the time frame of
the patent," Gartner Latest News about Gartner Vice President Martin
Reynolds told TechNewsWorld. "We're still too far away."
According to the patent, which was granted in the U.S. in 2003, the
method of brain stimulation centers on low-frequency pulses that
stimulate the neural cortex without requiring any kind of implant.
Described as plausible by an expert in the New Scientist report, the
technology could be the basis for a system that allows users to
experience various sensations, including sight, taste, smell or sound,
the patent states.
Sony reportedly described the patented technology as speculative work,
and conceded there have been no experiments with it yet -- and no
prototype device exists.
News of the concept was met with amusement, amazement and paranoia on
the Internet this week.
Sony described the technology as "prophetic invention" in the patent,
for which the company filed for continuance late last year. Gartner's
Reynolds believes it is unlikely that Sony will have a product based
on the patent within its 17-year applicability. The analyst added that
technology patents are not difficult to obtain in the U.S.
"Remember, the [U.S.] Patent Office grants patents for almost anything
these days," he said.
The method described by Sony may prove useful someday, he said, but
there are still many issues to confront before virtual reality seems
real. "It could, over time, become a very fascinating way to stimulate
brain cells. But will we be able to stimulate them to see the picture
we want them to see, and will we be able to make it look real? If we
had those answers, it would be very valuable, but we don't," he said.
Sensory Tech Not New
Other methods of stimulating the brain's sensory centers include using
magnetic fields to induce brain currents. However, the use of such
methods to stimulate specific groups of brain cells to produce
detailed or specific results is, as yet, impossible.
Researchers have also been able to create the reverse effect via
wiring to the brain, where brain waves can make or manipulate
electronic signals. Researchers at U.S. institutions, for example,
have successfully enabled monkeys to move a computer mouse and a
robotic arm in different experiments.
Another technology more along the lines of Sony's patented method and
the idea of computer gaming was the BioForce controller from MadCatz,
which delivered mild shocks to players using the controllers. Released
to the market nearly four years ago, the controllers are no longer for