Electric fish is pretty awesome. This is an electric fish I met yesterday at the zoo. But I don’t know his name. Electric fish “see” by pulsing an electric current through the water and then somehow watching and parsing the variations in the electric field as it’s reflected back at them. Sharks too, and other fishes I think have a way of “seeing” prey from the tiny electric impulses of twitching fish muscles. It does help that saltwater is a reasonably good conductor. Bats and dolphins “see” their surroundings and each other using echolocation. Electric fish and bats may even see things in relative shades of “color” as well as form, shape and distance.
This is like magic. But it’s not that different or that much more an unlikely form of magic than our own eyes “seeing” the world and parsing our surroundings in fine detail only by means of a narrow spectrum of electromagnetic radiation (we call visible lightly) as it bounces, scatters and reflects chaotically off objects after a very long journey from a fiery orb in the sky.
Computers can see too. In the simple case, barcode scanners and RFID readers have been around for ages. More complicatedly, homeland security uses surveillance mixed with face recognition and robot cars with shedloads of intel-processors crammed in the trunk, are known to race across the desert. Relying heavily on engineered computer vision.
This awesome technology demo shows a google android (phone) application doing real-time augmented reality using computer vision mashed with googlemaps and place tagging. With mobile devices getting more powerful and more packed with high resolution sensors, practical augmented reality is not that far away. Just one beyond location based applications that are all the rage right now.
Soon every electric fish will want to have one.
The only remaining question: if your mobile devices, your eyeglasses, your clothing could see, what would they look for? What spectrum(s) would they see in?
What color would their electric world be?
Electric fish photo by Michele