Originally included in MoMA's recent Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition, Beta Tank's Mind Chair has been transformed from a hacked polypropylene readymade into a working wooden prototype. The chair features an array of solenoids (electromagnetic coils) attached to the back and controlled by a video camera. The camera transmits information to the solenoid grid, which then inscribes the visual stimuli onto the user's back through a complex series of vibrations.
Initially proposed by the late Professor Paul Bach-y-Rita (a leading figure in the fields of neuroscience and rehabilitation) sensory substitution concepts such as the Mind Chair proffer a future in which the afflicted are given renewed opportunity to interact with the world. According to designers Michele Gauler and Eyal Burstein, founders of Beta Tank, this technology highlights "the brain's ability to process alternative inputs" and could lead to new methods of transmitting information, such as receiving text messages or images through our skin.
The chair is currently seated at Moorfields Eye Hospital in the United Kingdom, where the designers are setting up a lab to run test trials with patients.