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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Interesting Programme on BBC

Seeing with sound using clicking with the tongue against the roof of the Mouth.
                                     
Recently on BBC Radio 4, a programme was run in which a boy of 10 years, born completely blind was taught the art of ‘seeing like a bat’ by the very Batman from USA, Daniel Kish who uses the sound from clicking his tongue against the roof of the mouth while holding the mouth pursed, and receiving back the echo from his surroundings and training himself to detect substance, texture and distance of items in his surroundings. Using this method he can safely navigate his way through roads and crossing roads avoiding traffic.  Ethan using the same method can go to school without any mishap. The idea of doing this started with Ethan’s great talent in music. He had an extraordinary talent of listening to everyday sounds like that of a washing machine, birdsong, and vacuum cleaner and converting it to piano music sounds which would take complicated but beautiful forms.  His mother succeeded in getting him entered into St Mary’s School, Edinburgh, one of the most prestigious schools in the UK. He was St Mary’s first blind pupil and his difficultly in getting around prompted his parents to contact Batman, who they had met on holiday in the US. Batman, Daniel uses the method that bats use to see. He would cycle down the street ‘clicking’. He could differentiate between objects, surfaces, and motion of and distance of objects, the process being called echolocation.A team of neuro scientists studied the phenomenon and to their surprise they found that Daniel was accessing the visual cortex. Professor Gordon Dutton says by ‘watching’ his surroundings by the echo that returns form his clicks he was recreating a visual picture, which stimulated the visual cortex as it happens in a sighted person. This is called Echology.

Ethan after his training by Batman, managed to attend school and as a gifted musician now with his Batman vision, was able to play in an orchestra at a concert at his school. Ethan and his family along with Daniel climbed a hill the two blind individuals using just their white sticks and echoes from clicking with the mouth.

References:

Seeing like a bat with Daniel Kish
http://bbc.in/1PrVpAa

Ethan playing the piano
http://bbc.in/1Te4QWe

Link to the programme

Sent by

Zita Perera Subasinghe

12 comments:

  1. Zita,This is very interesting-
    though this phenomenon of echolocation has been known in bats and marine animals such as dolphins and toothed whales- by which they navigate and locate their prey, and has also been used in WW2 to locate submarines, it is interesting to note the involvement of the visual cortex.
    I guess it is possible to get images of objects by repeated echoes much like Ultrasound imaging we use in medicine.
    Its application to help the blind 'see' is great .
    Thank you for introducing this subject- the neuroscientific aspects of which are bound to be very interesting. cheers

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    Replies
    1. That's fantastic Rohini, to know that this method has been used during WW2! And bats and marine animals and toothed whales use it! Yes of course 'toothed' whales. Thanks so much.
      Zita

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  2. Zita
    Thank you for this fascinating insight into "sight" through hearing. What an amazing story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The following is a link on human echolocation-
    en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_echolocation
    with a section on
    "Neural substrates of echolocation in the blind"
    and other interesting facts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rohini,many thanks for those links. Glad to note that echolocation is a well established method.
      Zita

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  4. This is fascinating! I am quoting from The New Scientist which had an article on 4 Nov 2015 about Smart glasses which translate video into sound to help the blind see. BLIND people often substitute sound for sight, and some can even use echolocation to steer around objects. But it turns out that sound can be tailored to convey visual information. That phenomenon is now being used to help build better navigation aids for blind people.
    Researchers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have developed smart glasses that turn images into sounds users can intuitively understand without training.
    The device, called vOICe (OIC stands for “Oh! I See”), is a pair of dark glasses with a camera attached, connected to a computer. It’s based on an algorithm of the same name developed in 1992 by Dutch engineer Peter Meijer. vOICe converts pixels in the camera’s video feed into sound, mapping brightness and vertical location to pitch and volume.

    A cluster of dark pixels at the bottom of the frame sounds quiet and has a low pitch, while a bright patch at the top would sound loud and high-pitched. The way a sound changes over time is governed by how the image looks when scanned left to right across the frame. Headphones send the processed sound into the wearer’s ear.
    mapping visuals to sound in this way reflects how we integrate data from different senses. Perceiving a rose, for instance, means experiencing more than just its colour – its scent, the texture of its petals and the rustle of its leaves all come into play.

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    Replies
    1. OIC, Mahendra! This is fantastic information you have supplied. It all shows that the brain is capable of using each of the senses to fill in the gaps resulting from the loss of one or two of them and man is able to function as an integral being. This species is not easily defeated. And the availability of the devices you have described further adds to their independence. Thanks a lot for that contribution.
      Zita

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  5. Dear Zita, Rohini and Mahendra,
    With my very rudimentary knowledge of physics, it is rather difficult for me to understand the intricacies behind these inventions. However it is a real advance so as to improve the quality of life of a group of differently abled people.
    Sanath

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  6. Prof. Lamabadusuriya,
    I feel honoured to be addressed by a celebrity such as you.
    Never having spoken to you or been spoken to, may I say-
    "How do you do"!
    With the great works I've gathered you've done and continue to do-it matters not what you know or don't about echoes and pixels!
    I also like your term "differently abled people"- Very politically correct!
    Nice learning about you on the blog.With Best Wishes-RohiniAna

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  7. Zita, this is a fascinating article! Echolocation is the active use of Sonar (SOund Navigation And Ranging) which as Rohini pointed out is used by bats, marine mammals and submarines. I sent an email to our esteemed Blog Administrator with a link to a Scientific American article on bats, which you all may find interesting. I didn't know how to post it as a comment. Speaking of bats, I see them every evening in Colombo at 6:20 PM on the dot, flying out from their daytime resting place in Vihara Mahadevi Park. There are thousands of them and one can almost set the clock by their exodus. They are amazing creatures!

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  8. Dear Rohini, I remember you very well when we were medical students in Colombo and I am sure that I have spoken to you many times then . Looking forward to meeting you and many others in exactly one years time
    Sanath

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear Rohini, I remember you very well when we were medical students in Colombo and I am sure that I have spoken to you many times then . Looking forward to meeting you and many others in exactly one years time
    Sanath

    ReplyDelete