Washington: The American Psychological Association has demonstrated a device that enables “seeing” with one’s ears rather than eyes, at the organization’s 119th Annual Convention this week.
The device known as the vOICe, which helps determine where and what an object is without using eyesight, was selected as best demonstration, with a prize of 3,000 dollars.
“Imagine losing your sense of sight and being able to ‘see’ instead with your ears,” said Michael Proulx, PhD, of Queen Mary University in London and presenter of the vOICe demonstration.
Proulx will show how the vOICe maps visual images to sound and provides blindfolded users with a sense of what an object is and where it is located.
This reveals that although we think we see with our eyes, sight actually takes place in the brain.
Through “sensory substitution,” a person deprived of one sense, such as sight, is capable of receiving the missing input through another sense, such as hearing, Proulx explained.
The vOICe maps visual images to sound via three primary dimensions: pitch, loudness and timed-stereo panning, which is much like panning with a video camera to keep an object within a picture while giving a panoramic view.
For example, for vertical location, “up” is represented by high frequencies and “down” by low frequencies. Horizontal location is indicated by the time it takes for a left-to-right scan of each image. Bright white is heard at maximum volume and dark is silent.
Long-term users of the vOICe who experience visual imagery via the device “can actually see with sound,” Proulx said.