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Virtual Dictionary


SSD is the acronym for a Sensory Substitution Device. At its heart, a SSD is simply a device to substitute one bodily sense for another. There are two main, very different applications for SSDs:

1. In terms of healthcare or overcoming physical disabilities, a SSD is employed to augment or replace a failing sense with another.

For example, if an individual's vision has given out, a soundscape may be generated to replace it. In this context, cameras worn by the individual transfer their data into a computer system that then produces a range of binaural sounds to indicate different obstructions or voids at different distances around the individual.

There is always a learning curve with this type of SSD, but the end result is an improvement in a failing or failed sense, by the redirection of another. Typically such SSDs are non-invasive, as if you are going to implant an invasive device, tying it up to the nervous system correctly, you might as well implant a device to replace the failed sense directly rather than re-purpose an existing one. It would make sense to implant new eyes in the above scenario, rather than implant a soundscape generator within the ear.

2. The second form of sensory substitution is of course a virtual reality interface. Here the meaning of a SSD changes slightly. The sense organs are not being used to substitute for the input of one another, but rather the data the sense organs receive is being substituted. In this case replaced with an entirely artificial input.

Artificial sight, artificial sounds, artificial smells, artificial touch sensations, even tastes. All substitute what the sense would naturally be sensing for an artificial variety.

This type of sensory substitution device is more likely to be available as an invasively implanted option as the technology develops. It is after all in theory easier to bypass the sense organs entirely and feed different information directly into the brain, then it is to fool every corpuscle of every different type in the skin across the body all at once, for example.

See Also: Soundscape, Virtual Reality, Binaural, Binaural Sound, Sensory Immersion, Sensory Reference Frame, Sensory Reference

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