Sound is captured and processed on a smartphone. The data is then sent over BlueTooth and played in real-time using a series of vibration motors on on a wearable vest.


Plasticity is truly one of the amazing aspects of the body’s response to injury or malfunction. Just as when traffic is rerouted during an accident or roadblock, it is the brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways in response to a situation for us to continue to function and survive.  In instances such as hearing loss, these rerouted pathways can be the form of amplified response to vibration to substitute for lacking function of the ear. If the brain is our control center and our senses are just ways to pick up information to send back to the control center, then once we are able to find another way to pick up the information, then the goal (hearing in this instance) is ultimately still achieved.

And what if there was something that amplified the process even more to assist those that go through life with deafness; missing one of the five vital senses? The Eagleman Laboratory has set out to address this. They have begun a Kickstarter campaign for VEST, a wearable extra-sensory device which converts sounds from the environment to vibration.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and provides a huge surface area of sensory input. Using this notion, the VEST works by processing sound in the environment on a smartphone which it converts to vibration. Next, the VEST then picks up these vibratory signals which the skin underneath it hopefully picks up as well. Finally, these signals that the skin has picked up are sent to the brain to process this information. It is ultimately an alternate route to process sound without the use of ears.

In addition to being innovative and easy to operate, VEST provides a low cost, noninvasive alternative to cochlear implants. The founders estimate that the device will cost consumers less than $2,000, while a cochlear implant can cost upwards of $40,000.