Thursday, September 8, 2011

Helps blind see through visual signals to auditory changers

Whenever we see some physically challenged person, we empathize with them, and feel their hardships in everyday tasks. How they must be facing difficulties in their everyday routine, and how they must compromise on all those things which we don’t think twice before doing. For visually challenged people, it’s a war every day. Getting from their homes to the office is no easy task. But their life could become so much easier by using vOICe machine, which will enable them to safely navigate through crowded places. The visual signals get transmitted to the brain in the form of audio signals.  Read more after the break...

What’s it about?
It is certainly a technology right from futuristic movies. Who could have thought that a smartphone, a pair of glasses, and a web cam can be combined in a way that could someday enable the visually challenged to ’see’? A neuroscientist at the Queen Mary’s College in London, Michael Proulx, has made this a reality. It was demonstrated in August 2011 at the meeting of American Psychological Association. It converts visual signals into audio signals with the help of a camera, after which the image is scanned. Then a soundscape is heard according to the pixels in the image. Frequency and volume changes occur according to the pixels in the image. But the biggest hurdle is that it is not known how the brain deals with complex sounds. All those technologies, we can go to and fro to the moon, but still don’t know about the thing sitting inside our heads. It is believed that 30 % of our brain is responsible for image processing, and it is that part that Michael is targeting.
The web cam captures the image, sends it to the smartphone, where the dissection of the image is done. The smartphone decides on the amount of objects in the image, and transmits their coordinates to the brain as an audio signal in a hot or cold manner. For vertical locations, up is denoted by high frequencies, while low is denoted by low frequencies. For horizontal locations, the distance is decided by the time it takes for the scanning of the image from left-to-right. White is denoted by max volume, and darkness by silence.
This device can be integrated with infrared and ultraviolet spectrums as well. This will enable visually challenged person to ‘see’ even at night. And substitute for SONAR may be developed by underwater navigation. So, in a way, visually challenged person can ‘see’ more than a visually enabled person.

The shortcoming:
The only shortcoming is that it takes a lot of time to get used to the device. All the time the person gets to hear all kinds of sounds, and is a little difficult to discern the meaning of each sound. But, after getting used to it, the quality of life will improve considerably.


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