The Disruptive Power of MIT SixthSense Project

sixthsense palm photo

(Archakam, 2010, figure 4: Using palm for dialing a phone number)


Components of SixthSense technology (Wright, 2010)

SixthSense technology is a wearable technology that enhances the physical world by  augmenting the physical world  with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information  (Mistry, 2009). SixthSense uses a camera, projector, a mirror, a phone, and colored caps. Below is a video describing the technology:

Everything on the device is connected wirelessly using Bluetooth, or the Wi-Fi on a smartphone (Chandra, Naik, & Patel, 2015). The technology can interact with your world as you go about your daily activities (Mistry, 2009). If you want to take a picture, instead of taking out your camera, you can use fingers, and the hardware will take it for you. Think of Tom Cruise’s character in the film Minority Report (Spielberg, Molen, Curtis, Parkes, & de Bont, 2002), when he was using his hand to manipulate the data on the screen at Precog, the central police headquarters.

The use of sixthsense like technology is not only useful in science fiction, but there are numerous social benefits in the applications of this technology as well.

Social Benefits of Sixth Sense Technologies


(Augmented reality for autism, n.d.)

One of the social benefits of the SixthSense technology is in education. An example for educational use is helping students with autism. Timothy Byrne, of Western Washington University, is the creator of SixthSense for Autism. This project focuses on giving its users social cues for basic everyday situations (Augmented reality for autism, 2010.) The video below explains in more detail how to use the device.

SixthSense Technology and its Lack of Disruptive Power

Technology that disrupted other technology (Swetha, 2013)

Technology that disrupted other technology (Swetha, 2013)

Both Thornburg and Harvard Business review describe a disruptive technology as an ideal that comes out of left field and usually changes a technology and elevates it to the point where we can no longer ignore the new technology (Laureate Education, 2014a, Harvard Business Review [HBR], 2013). When SixthSense was first introduced, there was a lot of excitement and speculation about how SixthSense would change the way its users see and view the world but there seems to be little talk about the technology now (Tsering, 2013).  In terms of an emerged technology, SixthSense is not yet at that stage because the general public does not have access to it, nor has it replaced current technology such as when email replaced hand-written letters (Laureate Education, 2014a).


Tomassetti, 2009

Tomassetti, 2009

Currently, SixthSense has not reached critical mass where the product is available for mass consumption and it seems to be forever stuck in the developmental stage (Rogers, 2003). Perhaps in another 5 to 10 years the technology will be readily available. There are a few devices currently on the market that are emerging to replace sixth sense. Nymi is a wearable computing device that is designed to replace the need to remember passwords. The device works by recognizing the heartbeat of the person wearing it and uses a person’s unique heartbeat signature to log on to computers and access other secured devices (Beal, n.d.).


King, 2013

Below is a video describing the capabilities of the device

Personal opinion for SixthSense applications in specific industries

            In a k-12 classroom, SixthSense technology has the potential to transform the classroom. Students and teachers are no longer confined using a handheld device such as a camera or an iPad. The absence of a handheld device will allow students and teachers to explore and engage in their environment more freely than before. For example, suppose the students were to take a school trip to the museum to gather information on dinosaurs for a group project. Students would be able to take photos using their fingers and have all the information added to their SixthSense device. Then, the students would be able to  use a flat surface in the museum to post their pictures and work together on their dinosaur project. There would be no need for teachers to be concerned about student’s breaking the school’s camera or iPad, and students would be engaged with the activity and learning.

Final Thoughts

SixthSense technology has some social benefits by allowing its users to remain productive and interact with others socially. The only problem I predict with SixthSense technology, much like in the film, The Matrix, is that the user may never be able to disconnect from the system. The technology is such that the interfaces merge effortlessly with the real world; unfortunately, we can often forget how important it is to disconnect and reconnect with the real world.



Archakam, K. C. (2010, November 13). SixthSense technology [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Augmented reality for autism. (2010, May 28). Augmented Reality for Autism [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Beal, V. (n.d.). Nymi. Retrieved from

Bigmoviefanatic. (2002, March 8). Minority report (2002) trailer [Video file]. Retrieved from

Byrne, T. [WesternID]. (May 14, 2010, ). SixthSense for autism by tim byrne [Video file]. Retrieved from

Chandra, M., Naik, A., & Patel, P. (2015, April ). Study of Sixth Sense Technology. International Journal of Research, 2(4), 915-919. Retrieved from

Harvard Business Review. (2013, November 22). The explainer: Disruptive innovation [Video file]. Retrieved from

King, B. (2013). The nymi bracelet can unlock your android devices by reading your heartbeat, pre-orders now available for $79. Retrieved from

Laureate Education . (2014a). David Thornburg: Disruptive technologies [Video file]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education. (Producer). (2014a). Elliot Soloway: Emerging vs. emerged technologies [Audio file]. Retrieved from

Mistry, P. (2009a). The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology [Video file]. Retrieved from

Mistry, P. (2009b). SixthSense: Integrating information with the real world . Retrieved from

Nymi . (December 3, 2014, ). The nymi band by nymi [Video file]. Retrieved from

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Chapter 6: Attributes of innovations and their rates of adoption. In Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). New York : Free Press.

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Chapter 8: Diffusion networks. In Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). : Free Press.

Spielberg, S. (Director), Molen, G. R. (Producer), Curtis, B. (Producer), Parkes, W. F. (Producer), & de Bont, J. (Producer). (2002). Minority Report [Motion picture]. United States: Amblin Entertainment, Cruise/Wagner Productions, Blue Tulip Productions, Ronald Shussett/Gary Goldman Productions.

Swetha, B. (2013). Examples of disruptive technologies. Retrieved from

Tomassetti, G. [Quoter]. (2009, ). April 6 [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Tsering (2013). What happened to sixth sense and Pranav Mistry. Retrieved from

Wright, M. C. (2010 ). SixthSense technology [Video file]. Retrieved from

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