27 October 2023

Glasses have been developed that use "echolocation" in a bat-like manner

The device allows blind and visually impaired people to "see" using sounds.

Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney have developed smart glasses that convert visual information into individual sound symbols. "Acoustic touches" help blind or visually impaired people to navigate in space.

The idea for the development was borrowed by scientists from bats. These animals use ultrasonic radar to orient themselves in space and search for prey. Engineers imitated the same principle in the creation of smart glasses FAD.

The FAD consists of augmented reality glasses and an Android phone. The app developed by the scientists received data from the glasses, tracked head movements and generated audio. Together, this allowed the FAD to turn objects into individual audio icons when they came into the device's field of view.

"Acoustic touch technology voices objects, creating unique sound representations when they come into the device's field of view. For example, rustling leaves can signify a plant, while a buzzing sound can signify a cell phone," Chin-Teng Lin, co-author of the study.

The researchers tested their glasses on 14 adult participants. Half of the participants had vision problems, while the other half were blindfolded sighted people who acted as a control group. 

The study took place in two phases. In the first training task, participants sat and used the FAD to scan and ultrasound objects on a table. In the second phase, participants moved around a cluttered room and searched for items.

The experiment showed that the FAD significantly improved the blind people's ability to recognize and reach for objects without much effort. With some refinements, acoustic touch technology could become an integral part of assistive technology for people with disabilities, the researchers said.
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