Spanish Scientists Develop Human Echolocation
A series of clicks and whistles could allow the blind to find their way, batlike, with sound
When navigating at night, around dark caves, and through murky waters, bats, dolphins, and whales use clicks and whistles to create a sonic picture of their environment. This ability to see with sound is called echolocation, and some Spanish scientists think they’ve found a way to systematically teach it to the blind.
Writing in the journal Acta Acustica, the researchers identified a set of sounds that could be used by humans, and codified the training regime needed to let blind people visualize their environment through sound.
In particular, the scientists singled out a clicking noise made by tapping the tongue against the roof of the mouth as the most useful for generating the echoes used in human sonar.
A number of people have already taught themselves this technique, including a blind American named Daniel Kish. Kish got so good at using echolocation to navigate his surroundings that he became the first blind person certified as a guide for other blind people.
The Spanish researchers look to build off of the experiences of people like Kish to develop a system exact enough to rival the echolocation found in bats and whales. Of course, if their system doesn’t work, people can just wait to get soaked in radioactive goo while visiting Hell’s Kitchen.