Repetition is the mother of skill. The skill of learning is a complex process within our brain and our muscles. Some skills as walking or using complex hand motions are just second nature. We are not actively thinking about how we perform them. Other skills have to be actively learned first. Nobody just sits on a bike and rides it after the first session. Unknown and new skills have to be experienced and repeated over and over again until the brain and the muscles work in sync. Only then it becomes possible to perform them with less effort.
The Medium Machine takes advantage of this knowledge and enables to encode information within the unconscious mind by teaching the user a certain movement. Information of any kind can be encoded this way and even repeated when not connected to the device anymore. When connected, the users are just experiencing an undefinable twitching of their hand. They do not know if the information behind it are nuclear weapon codes or just a telephone number. They just act as a medium and transport a given information between interfaces. Those interfaces eventually then decide about the final output.
The idea is inspired by the short story Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson, where the main character even had to delete his own memories to save foreign information on his brain to act as a courier for them. Everybody can become a medium with the Medium Machine. It is the basis for future ideas to emerge from. The stored infor- mation on its own has no meaning when not interpreted by an appropriate interface. Those interfaces are the actual future this project wants to initiate. The possibilities are endless. Music instruments, vehicle interfaces, passwords, cooking recipes or human to human communication are just some examples that come to mind. Skills and information can just be downloaded and learned by everyone. In the past, people thought differently about the future than it actually turned out to be. Flying cars became electric and autonomous vehicles of today. When talking about brain-machine interfaces, many people seem to have a certain vision of how those interfaces are going to look like. Most of them include devices with a helmet and sensors connected to different regions of the head. Even if this really is how future BMIs will look like, it is still important to think in different directions. Suggestions as the Medium Machine and its possible applications are also worth to discuss and think about.
This project is one of three projects of the master thesis: „Experiments on Human-Computer Interaction through electrical body part stimulation“ where each project combines the given hardware and technology of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit with various theoretical aspects.
The electrical impulse is given by a TENS unit. It is connected to the two aluminum bars which act as stationary electrodes.
The data in this setup is encoded into morse code with the help of an Arduino. Other encoding methods are also imaginable. The Arduino connects the TENS unit with the aluminum rods through a MOSFET circuit. Each time a signal is sent out by the Arduino, a gate is opened to allow electrical current to flow from the TENS unit into the rods. The power circuit that is created in the user’s arm lets the index finger twitch in the exact rhythm of the encoded data. The finger presses the button and emits a sound to enhance the learning process.