Hearing is imagining and seeing

A team of scientists and researchers has conceptualised a device which can be a big boon for the blind and partially sighted fraternity.

By Prashant Vadgaonkar

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Published: Sat 20 Jul 2013, 12:27 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:20 AM

The innovative device invented by a team comprising of Dr Peter Meijer from Holland, Alastair Haigh and Dave Brown of Queen Mary University of London, intelligently leverages sounds to construct an imagery of the things and happenings around, in the subject’s mind!

The vOICe sensory substitution device (SSD) trains the subject’s brain to transform the sounds heard into images. The device is essentially a visual to auditory tool that translates images taken by a camera worn by the subject into sounds which he or she hears via headsets.

The objective of Sensory substitution devices (SSDs) is to make up for the loss of a sensory function such as vision, by transforming the information gathered from the lost function into stimuli into some other remaining active function. The concept of Braille is on the same lines wherein tactile function helps the blind “read” successfully. A research team led by Dr. Dr. Michael Proulx at the University’s Department of Psychology tested the device on sighted subjects who were blindfolded. The subjects were made to undergo a standard eye chart test known as Snellen Tumbling E test in which they have to ‘see’ several sizes of the letter “E” on a screen, as it is rotated in four all various directions. The subjects were able to able to deliver the best results of about 20/400 as against the normal best-corrected visual acuity of 20/20.

Though the device does not help restore the actual eye sight of the subject, it could be a great option for invasive treatment for the blind.


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