Saturday, October 19, 2013

sonic vision for the blind

The vOICe system allows blind people to get a representation of the visual world through sound. But our brains already have a way of mapping sound to space, and it works pretty well. So why not make use of the already existing system? I'm picturing some kind of pleasant sound tracing around the outlines of objects and walls, playing as if the sound were actually coming from the true point in space. Or a path might be marked out by a series of different virtual windchimes, so that the safe path to walk can be heard as increasingly faint sounds. One couldn't make everything in the environment emit noise-- it would be a cacaphony-- but you could easily have dozens of noise sources placed around in space if they were different enough from each other. The particular sound made could be tied to the meaning of the object.
Do you see how this would make so much more sense than mapping pitch to height and volume to brightness? The sonar clicking method also requires a lot of training. The method I'm suggesting is something we all already know how to do, the brain wouldn't need to be remapped at all. Plus, the sounds wouldn't be so awful as pure tones, they could be as pleasant as we could invent.

2 comments:

Rebecca Holt Stay said...

David and Marcelle showed us a water fountain at U of O which was designed for the pleasure of the blind: water made different sounds in different ways. The directed sound at crosswalks and textured concrete are not annoying: more of that might enrich all our lives.

D said...

Those are good examples. With a computer vision system and headphones, the speakers wouldn't need to be physically embedded in the environment, so they would just make noise to the blind wearing the system.