In many videos, both by makers and commercial companies alike, such as this one:


The claim is made that by using a gadget that makes you 'feel' where north is by vibrating on the north side of your body (multiple implementations exist), you will eventually gain a "new sense" of where north is without noticing the actual stimulus anymore.

The video does 'cite' a study from a "university in Germany", but no actual sources are provided. Does this study exist, and if so, to what extent is it applicable to this specific project? What does it actually say? Is any other research available that this actually works?

  • 1
    Yes, it's called being aware of the sun.
    – fredsbend
    Jan 7 '17 at 20:43
  • @fredsbend Although slightly humorous, it ignores nights and tests with eyes shut. I'll take a look at this claim, it's interesting.
    – daraos
    Jan 7 '17 at 20:47
  • 2
    @daraos: I don't know whether it's a 'sense', or just awareness of input from other senses, but it seems that in a natural environment, and even in most buildings, I'm pretty well aware of where north is.
    – jamesqf
    Jan 7 '17 at 21:27
  • 2
    By definition, "innate" means "born with it". So, no, you can't gain it — trivially by definition. Jan 8 '17 at 1:16
  • 1
    @KonradRudolph By taking the literal meaning of the word, indeed. However, I think the spirit of the video and my question is really about whether you can get sensory augmentation to the point that it feels innate, i.e. as if you were born with it, rather than having to process the stimulus consciously (e.g. this side vibrates so that must be where north is).
    – Ben
    Jan 8 '17 at 1:20

Yes, it is certainly possible to learn a new sense. The original publication was from Dr. Peter König from University of Osnabrück. His most recent publication on this topic is more general: Learning a new sense by sensory augmentation: "Training with the feelSpace belt lead to (1) changes in sleep architecture, compatible with the consolidation of procedural learning and increased sensorimotor processing and motor programming, (2) differential activation in sensory and higher motor centers and brain areas involved in navigation, (3) changes of perception of space and belt perception and to an increased trust in navigational ability. Thus, our data support the hypothesis that new sensorimotor contingencies can be learned through sensory augmentation."

There is plenty research into sensory substitution and sensory augmentation.

  • 5
    Thanks for your answer, however "sensory augmentation" is the opposite of "innate sense" as asked, "innate" meaning "born with".
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 7 '17 at 22:47
  • 6
    @Sklivvz I think that sensory augmentation to the point that it feels innate (i.e. as if you were born with it) is really what was meant in the video, so I don't think they're opposites in the context of this question.
    – Ben
    Jan 8 '17 at 1:14
  • @Sklivvz I did an edit to the question to be in line with what I think the asker and the answer are looking for. Did that help?
    – JasonR
    Jan 9 '17 at 16:03

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