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Can humans 'see' using echolocation ?

Posted on Saturday, 3 August, 2013 | Comment icon 17 comments

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A team of researchers has developed an echolocation system that could enable a person to see using sound.

In the natural world echolocation is used by animals such as bats and dolphins as a way to locate and identify objects around them. Researcher Ivan Dokmanic and his team in Switzerland have been putting this idea to use in a computer-based echolocation system in the hope of using sound to 'see' the layout of a room. The setup uses a series of microphones and a computer that can pick up any sounds and then determine from that what the shape of the room is.

Dokmanic and his team hope that the technology could eventually be used by blind people to help them pick up more information about their surroundings. "I hope not too long - but the realistic horizon is two years to get something that's really usable by everyone," he said.

"Birds do it. Bats do it."

  View: Full article |  Source: NPR

  Discuss: View comments (17)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by Rolci on 3 August, 2013, 12:57
Quite correct. For those that are not aware, there are people who use echolocation at a masterful level in their everyday lives for orientation and judging the position of nearby and even remote objects. Anyone can learn it. Like "the boy who sees without eyes" on Extraordinary People. Nothing new to see here people, it's all been done before.
Comment icon #9 Posted by shrooma on 3 August, 2013, 13:07
. with the ears & throat being connected, wouldn't clicking the fingers work better? it might negate the possibility of masking/feedback and make the system a little more sensitive....?
Comment icon #10 Posted by Elfin on 3 August, 2013, 14:28
No the tongue definitely works best.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Mbyte on 3 August, 2013, 17:39
We can do this already!! We don't need technology to do it for us. Three blind people have learned to do this already. My theory is that we have to be aware that we can do it and then activly practice trying to do it. Then eventually the unconscious parts of our mind will eventually notice the reacurring patterns in sound and will develop a type of mapping. I've seriously considered trying to do it and blog about it
Comment icon #12 Posted by Elfin on 3 August, 2013, 18:07
Not just three. Almost everyone who is born blind does this. It is something that comes naturally.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Mbyte on 5 August, 2013, 4:23
Well maybe so but obviously science doesn't know this because we wouldn't be developing technology to do this for us then
Comment icon #14 Posted by SkepticalB on 5 August, 2013, 4:35
Or the technology is being developed for people who weren't born blind but become blind later. Or it makes the ecco location sharper
Comment icon #15 Posted by Elfin on 5 August, 2013, 7:39
Yes, that's exactly right.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Wickian on 5 August, 2013, 9:05
I remember watching a documentary about blind people riding bikes and such by using echolocation. I can't remember the details, but they mainly used hand-held clickers so they wouldn't have to occupy their mouths and could tell if they were near an object or not. With a bit of familiarity with the area and common sense they could identify trees, walls, bushes, people and such. It's probably some genetic remnant our bodies have kept just in case we ever need to use it again.

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