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You, Too, Can Learn Echolocation

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the and-you-swear-this-isn't-a-joke dept.

Medicine 133

The Narrative Fallacy writes "Wired reports that with just a few weeks of training, you can learn to 'see' objects in the dark using echolocation the same way dolphins and bats do. Acoustic expert Juan Antonio Martinez at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Spain has developed a system to teach people how to use echolocation, a skill that could be particularly useful for the blind and for people who work under dark or smoky conditions, like firefighters — or cat burglars. 'Two hours per day for a couple of weeks are enough to distinguish whether you have an object in front of you,' says Martinez. 'Within another couple weeks you can tell the difference between trees and pavement.' To master the art of echolocation, you can begin by making the typical 'sh' sound used to make someone be quiet. Moving a pen in front of the mouth can be noticed right away similar to the phenomenon when traveling in a car with the windows down, which makes it possible to 'hear' gaps in the verge of the road. The next level is to learn how to master 'palate clicks,' special clicks with your tongue and palate that are better than other sounds because they can be made in a uniform way, work at a lower intensity, and don't get drowned out by ambient noise. With the palate click you can learn to recognize slight changes in the way the clicks sound depending on what objects are nearby. 'For all of us in general, this would be a new way of perceiving the world,' says Martinez."

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No duh (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583699)

I believe Ripley's Believe It or Not, the TV show, already did a story on people who could do this.

Re:No duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583745)

I used this since childhood at night, as I try to find my way to bed without glasses. It's not that hard, it's about remembering how to sound changes when there's something in front of you.

Re:No duh (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | about 5 years ago | (#28583879)

I bet what you really remembered was the position of objects you saw when there was light. The subliminal cues your senses provided were more than enough to reconstruct the whole placement memory.

Re:No duh (4, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 years ago | (#28584971)

    I've navigated my entire house in pitch blackness. Ever tried to find a flashlight when the power goes out, it's pouring rain outside, at night (no stars, moon, or other ambient light)? Footsteps on wood floors are interesting, even without shoes. I remembered most of my environment, but could hear if I was going to miss a doorway by a few inches (or feet). Constant calls from a known location (like, the wife yelling "Did you find a flashlight yet!") helped anchor my distance and relative angle, and added to the echos to hear. Things like couches deadened the echo. I found it easier to close my eyes while I was doing it, even though it didn't matter because I couldn't see anyways.

    Most of the time was environment recognition. I knew something should be at such a distance ahead of me. Not magic, nor echolocation, just the simply knowing my environment. I was pretty good at it, although I did occasionally fall short on things because I was taking smaller steps rather than finding myself face down on the floor because something was out of place.

    I do this every night. The light switch is beside the door. There is no good place to put a lamp beside the bed, and I don't want a nightlight, so I turn off the lights, get undressed, and walk to bed without being able to see anything. I get a good reference of the room before I do it, so I don't have to wonder "Was the computer chair pushed in, or sitting out?"

Re:No duh (4, Informative)

paleo2002 (1079697) | about 5 years ago | (#28583759)

I remember seeing a story on Dateline or 20/20 a while back about several blind people who are already using this method of echolocation. One of them, a young boy, taught himself to see with sound by listening to how a desktop fan changed sound when he spoke into it. Now he can ride a bike around his neighborhood, navigate, avoid cars, etc.

Re:No duh (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | about 5 years ago | (#28584229)

I read about this about 40 years ago. I've practiced it a little, myself, and I've always assumed that blind people used the technique all the time. I'm surprised that anyone considers this new.

Incidentally, for near-distance location, a hiss works better than 'shh'.

Re:No duh (2, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | about 5 years ago | (#28584607)

Actually an earlier and probably more impressive example would be the case of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Holman [wikipedia.org] who in the early and mid 19th century travelled around the world using echolocation.

Re:No duh (5, Insightful)

lordsid (629982) | about 5 years ago | (#28585439)

It's not really important that its new or not. Everyone bemoaning this article so far has done so because they "heard" of a few people doing it. Well that really doesn't help the masses. To do that you need a way to reproduce the technique for other people who could use to learn it. The point is they developed a system to TEACH it, not just the method of echolocation itself.

Re:No duh (2, Informative)

johncadengo (940343) | about 5 years ago | (#28584307)

I'm not sure if this is the boy you're referring to, but here [youtube.com] is a documentary about a young boy named Ben Underwood [wikipedia.org] who is blind and has taught himself echo location [wikipedia.org] . It is pretty amazing.

Re:No duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584701)

Ben Underwood is dead.

Re:No duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584887)

Ben Underwood is dead.

You're thinking of that other guy. Michael Jackson.

Re:No duh (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 years ago | (#28584979)

Who? What did he do?

Re:No duh (2, Informative)

Kugrian (886993) | about 5 years ago | (#28585589)

Wrote books about whisky and beer.

Re:No duh (1)

Antidamage (1506489) | about 5 years ago | (#28583777)

It's going to be real fucking useful on the internet. This is an idea whose time has come and gone.

Re:No duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583907)

Right, because nobody ever goes around outside any more, in the dark. Right.

Re:No duh (2, Interesting)

Antidamage (1506489) | about 5 years ago | (#28584001)

Right. On top of that, the magic bean we traded it all for - the internet - isn't even real. You can't hug an internet. We're fucked.

Re:No duh (2, Funny)

Dhraakellian (665509) | about 5 years ago | (#28584565)

the internet isn't even real. You can't hug an internet. We're fucked.

Or, more to the point, you aren't.

Re:No duh (2, Insightful)

V!NCENT (1105021) | about 5 years ago | (#28585411)

Can one hug an activity?

I know my responce is a little bit too serious, but for the love of everything that's holy; the internet is not a place (I read it on the internet), but it's a medium!

That way we can shut those dead-tree-media (news papers) readers up. "Nah, you just read it on the internet so it's not true." -"Your newspaper is 'on' the internet too, so than your newspaper is wrong too? The internet is a medium, just like that collection of dead trees and ink you'r holding right now".

Dubious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583709)

This seems extremely unlikely, and most probably pseudoscience.

Re:Dubious (1)

orta (786013) | about 5 years ago | (#28583731)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLziFMF4DHA [youtube.com] Is part one of a documentry on this kind of thing

Re:Dubious (1)

v1 (525388) | about 5 years ago | (#28584119)

That's pretty awesome. And I thought I had a pretty good ability to use ambient sound, he just blows everything else away. I have hearing out in the higher frequency range (and as a result I think, my LF hearing stinks) so I can use a tv set in a room to sound out the room and hallways etc nearby, even behind closed doors. Unfortunately not many can hear up into the range of the flybacks on TVs. I bet if Ben could hear up in there he could carry around a sound generator on his belt or something and would take his skill to an even higher level. Too bad they say his hearing is normal.

Animal ears are complexly designed for good reason. Animals like cats have highly complex hearlobes and outer ear canals that deform the sound differently that comes in from different directions, and gives them information about the direction the sound came from without having to move their head during the sound. (allowing them to localize very brief sounds) Human ears aren't nearly as complex, but I bet it helps him a lot. I don't know if they were taking this into account with all their tests.

Re:Dubious (2, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 years ago | (#28584985)

    I've seen documentaries on Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, and UFO's. Does that mean I should believe all the crap that's spewed about them? If they are real, there has been so many bogus accounts put out there, you'd never know when the truth was presented.

    And yes, that was el Chupacabra that you saw outside your window last night. Beware! It's going to eat your goat, and then eat your SOUL! :)

   

Re:Dubious (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583769)

I'm saddened by your narrow world-view. You honestly do not think it's possible to fine-tune your brain to automatically discern variances in reflected sounds, in much the same way that it has been doing it for thousands of years?

I thought this 'story' was sensationalist as it was kind of obvious to me. Thus I was very surprised to find your post.

Re:Dubious (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about 5 years ago | (#28584069)

I'm pretty sure my brain has only been tuning itself for a few decades.

Re:Dubious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584561)

I'd mod you +1 precise, if I hadn't posted it.

Re:Dubious (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 5 years ago | (#28584349)

I'm saddened by your narrow world-view. You honestly do not think it's possible to fine-tune your brain to automatically discern variances in reflected sounds, in much the same way that it has been doing it for thousands of years?

I thought this 'story' was sensationalist as it was kind of obvious to me. Thus I was very surprised to find your post.

Kinda makes you wonder what his skull sounds like under echo-location.

Re:Dubious (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 5 years ago | (#28584905)

> in much the same way that it has been doing it for _thousands_ of years?

Easy for you to say Mr Vampire Man.

Re:Dubious (2, Funny)

unlametheweak (1102159) | about 5 years ago | (#28583899)

This seems extremely unlikely, and most probably pseudoscience.

It's no pseudo-science. Unfortunately they leave out some facts, like the fact that it only works for people who are born with antennae.

Re:Dubious (1)

Mprx (82435) | about 5 years ago | (#28583987)

With no training at all I can clearly distinguish between walls and curtains. I can't detect a pen in front of my mouth though.

innate? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583711)

I noticed I unconsciouly tongue-click when looking for stuff. Shrug.

"Now where did I put it <click> <click> <click>"

Date? (1)

flyonthewall (584734) | about 5 years ago | (#28583735)

Shook head, looked at calendar....

Nope. Wrong date...

Got to be true!

.

Momma's milk (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583751)

I've noticed babies clicking their tongues when blindly looking for a titty. Nom nom nom nom. Ok, maybe it's not echolocation. But nom nom nom nom!

Re:Momma's milk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583837)

Well, they've already been shown to masturbate, so why not echolocate, too?

Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (5, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | about 5 years ago | (#28583775)

Before the unfortunate accident where I was blinded by a radioactive cylinder that fell off a truck, I could not echolocate. But now I am a successful lawyer by day and a blind but superpowered crimefighter by night. You too can have superpowers but there is a sacrifice to be made. You must avoid Windows.

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#28583845)

Are you the governor of New York state?

Seems only fair that if California gets the Terminator New York would get superhero - although I would have expected it to be Batman.

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583911)

Duh, Batman lives in Gotham City. Spiderman lives in New York.

What a nerd!

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#28584173)

Duh, Batman lives in Gotham City. Spiderman lives in New York.

The longstanding nickname "Gotham" was first attached to New York by Washington Irving in his magazine Salmagundi.

Freaking illiterate ACs.

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

rdnetto (955205) | about 5 years ago | (#28583903)

radioactive cylinder

Actually, it was a cylinder of biological waste.

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about 5 years ago | (#28584091)

Originally, Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider. In the live-action movies, it was a genetically engineered one.
Are you sure the source of DD's abilities stayed the same in every incarnation?

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

orngjce223 (1505655) | about 5 years ago | (#28584131)

Yes, and in the Indian version he gets it from a supernatural yogi or something. *shrug* There's no accounting for taste.

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#28584187)

There's no accounting for taste.

Or hearing.

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | about 5 years ago | (#28584455)

No, in the original comic - which I own, so let's not dispute this - a radioactive cylinder fell off a truck, hit Matt as a kid and that was the origin story.

Re:Have to be a daredevil to be successful at this (1)

rdnetto (955205) | about 5 years ago | (#28585075)

Sorry, I was talking about the 2003 film. I guess they changed it since the nuclear waste device is way too overused.

superpowers (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | about 5 years ago | (#28584893)

You too can have superpowers but there is a sacrifice to be made. You must avoid Windows.

Is that you, Steve Jobs?

Re:superpowers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28585041)

Yes, I AM Steve Jobs, and now I have liver superpowers. I can make your iPhone overheat at a distance telekinetically. Fear me while you cook eggs on your phone.

Finally! (5, Funny)

narcc (412956) | about 5 years ago | (#28583793)

This is exactly what I've been looking for: Something else to do while I'm sitting alone in the dark.

Re:Finally! (1)

Robin47 (1379745) | about 5 years ago | (#28583917)

Oh, man! And I just spent my mod points on the last story...

Catburglars? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583799)

Yes, sneaking around the dark house at night screaming at the walls to find your way around. The epitome of stealth!

I am a firefighter (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583803)

...you insensitive clod. ...and one can't hear much in a working structure fire other than one's SCBA, the sounds of the fire, and your buddy on the hoseline.

Which is why we have flashlights and IR cameras mounted on our helmets.

Echolocation can be learned, just not applied in every low-light environment.

I am a cat burglar (4, Funny)

iYk6 (1425255) | about 5 years ago | (#28584035)

...you insensitive clod. ...and screeching while stealing stuff is generally considered a bad idea in my profession.

I am a bat (1)

weirdo557 (959623) | about 5 years ago | (#28584785)

...you insensitive clod ... and i've been doing this since before you were born.

Re:I am a cat burglar (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 5 years ago | (#28585637)

That was hilarious.

Re:I am a firefighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584151)

On top of what Anonymous Coward has said above, I can't see how this would be particularly useful when we're required, in any smoky situations we're required to wear a face piece, thus inhibiting the sound's ability to travel to the desired location.

But I'm sure it would be useful if we get lost in our masks.

Re:I am a firefighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584257)

in any smoky situations we're required to wear a face piece, thus inhibiting the sound's ability to travel to the desired location.

Is your mouth the only thing that can make the required sounds?

Re:I am a firefighter (1)

jimmyswimmy (749153) | about 5 years ago | (#28584287)

You have IR cams mounted on your helmets? Seriously? We have one per unit officer. What kind? Agreed though, it would be nice if this were useful. I suppose I could build an ultrasonic device that would enable some of these capabilities -- IF it would be useful (unlikely) and IF I wanted to carry even more shit around with me.

Re:I am a firefighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584627)

You're really gonna hate this...

Yeah, we've got 3 of 'em, and we're a very small all-volunteer department in a very rural area. I have one, and I'm not an officer - just a plain ol' dumb redneck volunteer firefighter.

Further irritation for you: we have a cascade system, a $25,000 HAZMAT identifier, and more Holmatro extrication (and certified techs) equipment, high- and low-pressure airbags than any (paid or volunteer) department within 100 miles.

It's a good thing my dog wasn't nearby... (2, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 5 years ago | (#28583811)

... or he would echolocate the dog, and nothing else. When she hears "ssh" noises, she starts barking defensively to scare off intruders. (The hissy reptilian character of "ssh" probably doesn't help in general.)

So if I had anything to add here, it would be: if it's possible at all that You, Too, Can Learn Echolocation, it's certainly not going to be possible within earshot of my stupid dog.

Re:It's a good thing my cat wasn't nearby... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583971)

2 clicks with a delay work really well for calling the cat to come to me anywhere in the house. I use the same delay between the front paws and the hind legs landing as the cat jumps down.

Re:It's a good thing my dog wasn't nearby... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584277)

she starts barking defensively to scare off intruders.

An effective method to train a dog to stop barking is to train it to bark on command, then to stop when it's time for a reward. That way it learns what the "stop" signal actually means.

Done that myself (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 years ago | (#28583813)

While I am not sure I could pull off flying at night, I know I could easily use it to avoid walking into walls at night... I've done it. It's far from a big deal. The method of sound generation I used was snapping my fingers, though, and not clicking my mouth which I think would confuse my ears even more since my mouth is connected to my ears. But repeatedly snapping my fingers around my head while stepping forward allowed me to appreciate the changes in acoustics well enough to know where walls and other large objects were. On the other hand, it's not quite good enough to avoid stepping on toys left out by my two year old.

The picture we get from such a technique is no picture at all. To create a picture, we would need a dense array of ears of great sensitivity not unlike a retina. At best you can sense that something is there and perhaps how solid it may be. After all, a curtain would mask echoes while walls do a nice job of bouncing the signals.

Still, I am quite certain that blind people already do this without thinking about it. While they may not intentionally send out "pings" in the form of clicks or snaps, they quite likely hear other signals such as the brush of their feet on the carpet, the knock of their feet on the floor or even the rustling of their clothes or the sound of the air flowing from the HVAC system. All of these things generate enough noise signal the allow the notice of the change of acoustic feedback as one to detect changes in the surroundings.

Re:Done that myself (4, Insightful)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 5 years ago | (#28583941)

But repeatedly snapping my fingers around my head while stepping forward allowed me to appreciate the changes in acoustics well enough to know where walls and other large objects were. On the other hand, it's not quite good enough to avoid stepping on toys left out by my two year old.

Normally one would just turn on the lights, as it's less likely to wake the two year old than incessant clicking or snapping of fingers.

Re:Done that myself (1)

Twisted64 (837490) | about 5 years ago | (#28585001)

Normally one would just turn on the lights, as it's less likely to wake the two year old than incessant clicking or snapping of fingers.

I don't know about everyone, but my father absolutely HATES turning on the light in the middle of the night, I think because it wakes him up. It certainly was creepy finding him on the toilet in total darkness... but in those cases other senses would alert me to his presense.

Re:Done that myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28585667)

This story smells fishy

Re:Done that myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584037)

"The picture we get from such a technique is no picture at all. To create a picture, we would need a dense array of ears of great sensitivity not unlike a retina."

You just need to turn your head.

We have a strong awareness of the angle and attitude of our ears while listening.

Try to locate a source of a sound and you will perform a scanning motion with your head to gather information from a number of slightly different attitudes. People do this naturally.

We also use reflections within the outer ear to analyse phase information and spatially locate where a sound is coming from.

As most people do this automatically, you don't even notice you are doing it.

Re:Done that myself (2, Informative)

an unsound mind (1419599) | about 5 years ago | (#28584053)

Doing it for large objects is between easy and effortless.

Doing it for small objects is hard.

I keep colliding into small, hard objects I don't know the location of if I try to navigate by sound in the dark.

And after that I usually swear, so others can locate me in the dark.

Re:Done that myself (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about 5 years ago | (#28584109)

Exactly. I can hear my bedpost if I'm pointed the right direction, but it is variable. Hearing the walls is easy. Hearing that barbell you accidentally left on the floor, however. is really hard. Fortunately, your feet have no problem "locating" such things....

The biggest problem with echolocation for humans is not hearing sensitivity or mental ability. It's the fact that our feet don't follow behind our heads except when we're swimming.... We would need a second set of ears on our ankles for echolocation to be practical.

Re:Done that myself (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 years ago | (#28584263)

A simple and profound observation... it somewhat matches the observations of others such as myself citing my son's toys, however, I like the way you put it better ... our bodies do not follow our heads during normal travel and so it is ineffective.

Re:Done that myself (1)

Alsee (515537) | about 5 years ago | (#28585115)

We would need a second set of ears on our ankles for echolocation to be practical.

The delivery room doctor told my mother it was a "defect".

-

Re:Done that myself (1)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | about 5 years ago | (#28584531)

Back in the 70s or 80s, there was a study published by the Scientific American investigating the source of the ability that had developed in some blind to perceive the locations of objects, or at least get an idea of their environment. The subjects themselves had many thoughts about the source of their abilities, some describing it as a pressure they felt on their forehead, but all lost their rudimentary abilities when their ears were covered.

My parents have a copy of the study, but unfortunately, I do not, and am unable to find the article on google.

Re:Done that myself (1)

Pikoro (844299) | about 5 years ago | (#28585711)

Apparently you are not "clicking" enough if you cannot find it (aren't double puns wonderful)

Re:Done that myself (1)

cerberusss (660701) | about 5 years ago | (#28585073)

On the other hand, it's not quite good enough to avoid stepping on toys left out by my two year old.

Acoustic expert Juan Antonio Martinez at the University of Alcalà de Henares in Spain says it takes 'Two hours per day for a couple of weeks' to learn echolocation. On the other had, we have the toddler, for which it takes at least 18 years to learn to clean up his garbage after him.

Re:Done that myself (1)

JCZwart (1585673) | about 5 years ago | (#28585179)

This [youtube.com] (small) documentary about Daniel Kish, a blind person using echolocation, suggests these blind people use this technique in a quite advanced manner. See the 'test' they perform on one of the blind people featured in the film, at about 4:20. Sounds like he's able to hear much, much more than just some surroundings. At the end, they even go out mountainbiking.

If ever I should become blind, I'd surely investigate in this technique.

Wouldn't work for firefighters (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583817)

This would be utterly useless for firefighters as they all wear SCBA which requires a full face mask. Further more your ability to hear those clicks are again reduced by gear over your ears, radio chatter and the often very dense smoke around you soaks up large volumes of noise.

This would take serious adaptation to make it even remotely feasible for someone in that scenario. If you're on a hose crew you can just outright forget it all together.

Re:Wouldn't work for firefighters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584003)

Even without any gear, the roar of the fire and the updraft currents would make it a useless technique.

Re:Wouldn't work for firefighters (1)

ti-coune (837201) | about 5 years ago | (#28584805)

well, how about if the sounds are emitted from a small speaker on the person's chest or helmet and the echo captured by an array of small microphones on the same place. Then a microcomputer translates these echoes back into audible sounds in earphones. Im sure someone could learn to "see" these signals. just a thought...

Just project it on the mask (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 5 years ago | (#28584857)

I think if you wanted to, you could just project something onto the mask using a sort of a portable imaging system.

Re:Wouldn't work for firefighters (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#28585213)

I'd go for a technical solution. An emitter for ultrasonic sound, a receiver, a computer to visualize it and a display to show it. Sounds more useful.

Provided you want to haul that thing around in a situation where you're already lugging half a ton of other stuff around, of course.

lights overrated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583851)

Good that lights were invented, even portable ones ...
- Not everyone wants to become a bat.

Blind Wille McTell (2, Interesting)

LD HL,4000h (824820) | about 5 years ago | (#28583867)

I remember reading a while ago that Delta Blues musician Blind Willie McTell [wikipedia.org] could do this, I always assumed that it was just another weird blues legend, but I'm absolutely stunned to find that it might have been true.
Maybe Robert Johnson really did sell his soul to the Devil.

Re:Blind Wille McTell (1)

linguizic (806996) | about 5 years ago | (#28583965)

Maybe Robert Johnson really did sell his soul to the Devil.

The apocryphal part of that legend isn't that Robert Johnson sold his soul, it's that he sold his soul to the devil. He actually sold it to a nerdy little dweeb with blue hair for $5. After that he had a hard time going through automatic doors.

BBC documentary with blind young man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28583995)

I clearly remember watching a BBC documentary about a blind young man who would do 'palate clicks' - he could discern cars and rubbish bins and other obstacles and preferred it instead of his stick.

Science Daily mentions 'trial and error' that others have used to make it work for them: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630075445.htm

Re:BBC documentary with blind young man... (1)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28584613)

Wasn't this the same kid that claimed he could play video games through sound alone?

If not, I at least remember one kid playing SNES on the news who was 'completely blind' and clicking at a TV screen. I wanted to kick the news reporter for being a fool and getting trolled.

Ben Underwood (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584013)

Who was blind had a documentary about him (before he passed,MHRIP) called

Extraordinary People - The boy who sees without eyes [youtube.com]

truly amazing, but then is it ? he learned this from an early age and didnt think it was anything special same as most of us take seeing light reflected off objects for granted

Iam more in awe of programmers who are blind (like this guy [gamesfortheblind.com] , now that takes a special kind of mind.

Re:Ben Underwood (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#28584149)

My mother used to teach children who are both deaf and blind. They used taxies quite a bit to move children between home and school. One day the taxi driver got the destination totally wrong. The child knew straight away they were going the wrong way and tried to tell the driver but unfortunately the driver assumed he knew better and kept going.

Without sight and hearing you still have a lot of input from your senses. Your skin can detect photons (nice and warm sitting here in the sun) and vibration (haptic feedback, etc). One trick my mother used with her students was to press an inflated balloon to the child's skin, then to expose it to sound. The balloon makes it easier to couple the sound source to the skin. That way you can use sign language to help the child understand the sounds and vibrations they experience.

Now we can answer the age old question ... (1)

Charles Dodgeson (248492) | about 5 years ago | (#28584019)

What is it like to be a bat? [consciousentities.com]

Of course actually knowing the answer to the question itself may not help address the philosophical issues raised by the question.

Why not.. (0, Redundant)

Roskolnikov (68772) | about 5 years ago | (#28584029)

Instead of relying on sound made from ones own mouth, why not rely on a simple emitter around your neck making the clicks for you? sounds silly but resolution would become a problem pretty quick.

still, very cool.

Dyslexic title (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 5 years ago | (#28584055)

Did anyone else read the headline as 'chocolateion? Mmmm, chocolate ion!

Why can't we have more "Stuff That Matters" articles on chocolate? :)

I was trying... (1)

sam0737 (648914) | about 5 years ago | (#28584059)

read Slashdot on LCD by using Echolocation....never success yet, and found that listen to the RSS clip read aloud by the robotic overload works much better.

And to learn a bit more. . . . (2, Informative)

hoarier (1545701) | about 5 years ago | (#28584099)

There's a rather more informative article about it here [sciencedaily.com] .

People Reading this Story (1)

muphin (842524) | about 5 years ago | (#28584399)

I wonder how many people started shhh'ing and hissing and clicking when they read this story, would've been funny when u walk past a cubicle and someone doing that :p

imagine when you have 10 people in a room doing that, how can u filter out that static?

Re:People Reading this Story (1)

enFi (1401137) | about 5 years ago | (#28584641)

Actually, I'd becurious to know whether lots of people clicking produced interference, or instead produced better coverage of the environment; I suspect the latter, so long as the different people are not producing identical clicks at exactly the same time.

You might already be doing echo location (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584405)

Our hearing systems are already highly tuned at identifying our environment through the character of existing sound environments (reverberation for example) - for example, it's fairly trivial to indentify if an audio recording was made in a room or outdoors.

Barry Blesser wrote the book Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture [blesser.net] where he discusses the ability of people to interact with their environment just by relying on our ears alone. He describes an experiment where students are told to walk toward a wall with their eyes close, and to stop just short of the wall (without looking) and most students could do it without training, and by just relying on the ambient sounds and the sounds of their footsteps.

The book also describes a group of blind teenagers who mountain bike by using their ears to "see." (click on the link above).

We have the ability, we just don't think about it.

We already do this (1)

The_Duck271 (1494641) | about 5 years ago | (#28584441)

I'm pretty sure everyone has at least some subconscious awareness of their environment based on echoes. I recall one time where I walked into a room in my house and stopped dead because the echoes of my footfalls were so strange; the room had been cleared of all the junk that normally cluttered it. If you pay attention you will notice how the sound of your steps or of your voice changes as you move about.

Clickers? (1)

Sir Holo (531007) | about 5 years ago | (#28584499)

Tons of blind people use clickers as they walk around. Not always, because it attracts attention.

That is actually the secondary usefulness of a cane (after visibility). You can make tappy-sounds without attracting undue attention.

Echo-location? How about fins? (1)

ring-eldest (866342) | about 5 years ago | (#28584541)

It's easy. All it takes is a few hundred thousand years and some careful breeding programs.

Chirping (1)

4D6963 (933028) | about 5 years ago | (#28584821)

What about chirping instead of clicking? Clicking is good because it's short, but because it's short it's low powered, whereas if you chirp then you have more power coming out. I wonder how that'd work out for human echolocation too.

Re:Chirping (1)

32771 (906153) | about 5 years ago | (#28585437)

Well they explained the ease of use issues, but chirping only produces a certain frequency at a time while clicks cover a broader and higher frequency range.

I doubt your statement that clicks are low powered because they are short btw.

However, now that I'm thinking about chirps, if you could chirp at high frequencies and had good frequency resolution you could use this while moving and use the Doppler effect, to locate objects.

If you think about using correlation to get better time resolution by processing a chirp I would like to ask you where in my brain I could find any fitting device.

Ultimately you might want to look into active sonar pulse design and space time adaptive processing radar. But I guess this will diverge from your brains abilities in terms of implementability.

Re:Chirping (1)

32771 (906153) | about 5 years ago | (#28585609)

This seems to be an interesting book on the topic:

Title: Blip, ping & buzz: making sense of radar and sonar
Author: Mark Denny
Edition: illustrated
Publisher: JHU Press, 2007
ISBN: 0801886651, 9780801886652
Length: 274 pages

Google books offers a preview.

Ambient noise imaging? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28584849)

Ran into this working on a paper once.

http://www.arl.nus.edu.sg/web/research/romanis

Fascinating idea, now if only air would transmit the higher frequencies better...

I'm surprised you aren't doing this already! (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 5 years ago | (#28584853)

I'm always clicking away as I stumble downstairs and don't want to wake up the wife and kids.

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