Sounds of Science: Seeing with Sound

Example spectrogram of a one-second sound generated by the vOICe. Image: Amir Amedi/Seeing with Sound

In this episode Ed Prosser takes a listen to the vOICe technology, which has been developed to help the blind ‘see’ with sound. The technology effectively translates a visual data stream into an auditory output which is determined by pre-defined properties of the image. The technology can be used in combination with a small camera, allowing the user to literally hear the images it captures. With training and experience, this sound can be used to induce a type of synthetic vision which is achieved through a process known as ‘sensory substitution’.

Researchers are now using this technology to better understand how the brain can re-wire itself to construct a sense of vision from a non-visual input. This research is significant in that it allows us to understand how our senses interact in creating perception: specifically, how one sense can substitute another in its absence.

To find out more about this technology and how it works, Ed visited Dr Michael Proulx of Queen Mary University, London, who is currently using the vOICe technology to understand how different sense modalities interact to give rise to perception.

The vOICe software is free to use by anyone and is available either as a computer program or smart phone app. For further information on the vOICe technology, visit: www.seeingwithsound.com

The Sounds of Science is presented and produced by Ed Prosser and is featured on the icradio show Short Science.

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