Echolocation could help blind people navigate like bats: study

Source: Xinhua| 2018-03-01 11:15:03|Editor: Zhou Xin
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LONDON, March 1 (Xinhua) -- A study of Durham University in Britain has found the skill of echolocation can help blind people navigate by "seeing with sound" just like bats.

The insights were published in the British Royal Society journal Proceedings B on Wednesday. They confirmed that people can identify objects with a high rate of accuracy by listening to echoes of mouth clicks.

"Everyone's clicks are different," explained Daniel Kish, a co-author on this study, who is also an American echolocation expert.H The research team used a special sound-deadening room to put echolocating volunteers to the test. The result showed that echolocators could spot the target in front of them after a click or two.

But if it was off to the side or behind them, they needed about 10 or 12 clicks, and the clicks became much louder. Expert echolocators can make subtle alterations to their clicking patterns depending on the object's location.

"Click energy is very much to the front of the person, with very little going to the back. So I think people are compensating, or double-checking by sending more sound behind them," said Lore Thaler, who led the study.

She also said that from a scientific perspective, it's firmly established that people can do this like bats.

Recent research has shown that echolocation can provide details about objects in the environment, including shape, size, distance, and even the material they are made from.

Andrew Kolarik from the University of Cambridge told BBC News that each echolocation click is like a single snapshot of the world, so teaching echolocation skills could provide blind people with the means of exploring new places.