Acquire a transhuman Compass Sense with a kit-built anklet

The North Paw is a kit for an anklet that subtly vibrates your on the side of your ankle that faces north, so that you attain a kind of subliminal "Compass Sense" like those possessed by certain birds.

What makes it way more awesome than a regular compass? Persistence. With a regular compass the owner only knows the direction when he or she checks it. With this compass, the information enters the wearer’s brain at a subconscious level, giving the wearer a true feeling of absolute direction, rather than an intellectual knowledge as with a regular compass.

Because of the plasticity of the brain, it has been shown that most wearers gain a new sense of absolute direction, giving them a superhuman ability to navigate their surroundings. The original idea for North Paw comes from research done at University of Osnabrück in Germany. In this study, rather than an anklet, the researchers used a belt. They wore the belt non-stop for six weeks, and reported successive stages of integration.

North Paw (Thanks, Lucas)


  1. What they don’t mention is what happens when you take the anklet off after a few months. Seems to be some bad side effects after removing it after prolonged use.

    Here’s an article from wired that talks about it-

    “When the original feelSpace experiment ended, Wächter, the sysadmin who started dreaming in north, says he felt lost; like the people wearing the weird goggles in those Austrian experiments, his brain had remapped in expectation of the new input. “Sometimes I would even get a phantom buzzing.” He bought himself a GPS unit, which today he glances at obsessively. One woman was so dizzy and disoriented for her first two post-feelSpace days that her colleagues wanted to send her home from work. “My living space shrank quickly,” says König. “The world appeared smaller and more chaotic.”

  2. I have a very good intuitive sense of direction, although I have found that while my North-South is very good, I don’t actually have an East-West.  Rather, I have a toward the water/away from the water sense.  (I think the Hawaiian for that is Mauka-Makai).  So if I’m on the west coast, things work out right (even if I am well away from the ocean), but if I’m on the East Coast, or in Chicago (with the Lake to the East), I often take the wrong exit on the highway because to me “toward the ocean” trumps the cardinal direction “west” when I’m trying to navigate.

    1. Yeah, I live in New Orleans now and magnetic north is meaninless in directions here – everything is “toward the river” or “toward the lake” (or “uptown” vs. “downtown”, which coming from New York makes me think North & South but they aren’t that here – it’s more East/West but not really).

  3. I’d love this if it could be subdermal, or at least less bulky. I love my magnetic finger implants, and if they could indicate direction too, it would be dynamite.

    Sensing direction directly might not be much of a superpower, but hey, it’s one more than I have now.

    1. But see Lexorin’s comment above.  It could mess you up if it malfunctioned.  And if it was implanted, even moreso.

      Then add malware.

      1.  So worst case is I become a cyberzombie controlled by Russian hackers? I’m not sure I’m seeing the downside here.

        But yeah, you’ve got a point there. I hate having to unscrew the battery compartment door, so I’d probably find surgery even more inconvenient when changing batteries. I could get rechargeables, but who wants to sleep with a finger in the light socket?

    1. That was my exact thought. I thought it would be neat to have one, but a kit that I have to assemble, that is massive in size, for that price? Not interested. 

  4. I wonder if it’d be as effective if you minimized the components to one vibration motor, which vibrates with increased intensity when you’re facing north…

    It’s not as instantly intuitive without the constant vibration of north at all times, so you’d have to turn a little to figure it out — but it’d seriously minimize the size/price. 

  5. This has a touch of “survivalist” to it.  Do we really need to go to that length to develop an absolute sense of direction, when our relative sense of direction (judging our visible surroundings) works well in almost all circustances?

    1. There’s a fundamental difference.

      If I placed you in the middle of a city you’ve never been to on an overcast day and asked you to go north you’d have no idea which direction to head in. With a augmentative device like this you’d know “instinctively.”

      In daily conditions you’d be eliminating the few seconds it would take to visually process your surroundings to come to the same conclusion. 

      Is it necessary? Sure, probably not — but neither are cushioned seats or silverware. 

      1. Without nav cues, I get mazed in mere minutes in cities.  I think it’s the lack of horizon.  With a GPS I’m a happy comfortable (nay, adventurous) traveller.  

  6. So, what you’re saying here is:

    Stand in the place where you are
    Now face west
    Think about direction
    Wonder why you have it now


    1. We’re the dandy highwaymen so tired of excuses
      Of deep meaning philosophies where only showbiz loses
      We’re the dandy highwaymen and here’s our invitation
      “throw your safety overboard and join our insect nation”

      Stand and deliver your money or your life!
      Try and use a mirror no bullet or a knife!

  7. I got a North Paw a few months ago, having lusted after a compass belt ever since I saw the original German version featured on a BBC science show. Besides being a pain to assemble (lots of small bits to solder), at least for this relatively inexperienced assembler, the North Paw never really worked properly. It only occasionally pointed in the right direction, and often vibrated unrelated motors.

    Fun to play with but definitely a 1.0 product. I’m still desperately awaiting a nice, compact commercial version.

    1. But if you have to exert a miminum of physical effort to obtain information, rather than having it piped continuously to your nervous system all the time, it’s not THE FUTURE!

    2. Having continuous, real-time directional sensory feedback is quite a different experience than checking a compass. In the BBC show, the researchers (led by Dr. Saskia K. Nagel of the Institute for Cognitive Science, University of Osnabruck) had a guy wear the compass belt for a week or so. Then they blindfolded him & led him along a zigzag course laid out in the parking lot. After that, still blindfolded, he was able to perfectly walk the same zigzag course without looking, just based on his new “sense awareness.”

      The researchers found their subjects were unable to describe exactly how their revised directional sense worked & felt, which led them to conclude it was a new sense unlike anything humans normally experience. THAT is why it interested me in the first place, and why I’m still waiting for a nicely made consumer version.

  8. That was basically my experience with a slightly earlier version of the kit. To work properly, it really had to be held very level, which obviously doesn’t work particularly well for something strapped to you.

    On the other hand, I really liked putting the kit together and was very happy with it. I’m not sure how easily the issues with the angle at which the compass module sat could be resolved.

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