smart glasses

Glasses to help the blind see with sound: Acoustic Touch

Technology

Technology is rapidly evolving at a breakneck speed. And the ultimate goal of this rapidly evolving technology is to improve our lives. Therefore, it should not be a surprise to know that researchers from Australia have developed a new technology in glasses to help people who are blind “See” with sound. Do note that the term “See ” used here is just another way of saying “being able to navigate better using sound.” This technology is termed ‘acoustic touch’.

But the question here is “What is acoustic touch?” and “How does it help blind people ‘see’?” In this blog, we discuss the details of this recent technological breakthrough. So, with this in mind, let’s get started.

What is acoustic touch technology?

glass with acoustic touch

In simple words, the acoustic touch is a technology that transforms visual data into distinct sound representations. When used well, this creates auditory representations of the landscape. This provides crucial information regarding the surroundings to the user. This acoustic touch technology is used alongside computer and AI technology. By doing this it analyzes visual input when it is then transformed into audio feedback. This provides you with a detailed landscape of the surroundings, which you can then use to navigate in the surroundings. It is not all that different from how the bats use echolocation. While one cannot actually see using acoustic touch, you can navigate in your surroundings more easily. This can be immense to those who suffer from low vision or legal/complete blindness.

Research Validates Benefits for the Visually Impaired

glass with acoustic touch

A few months ago, Dr. Howe Zhu from the University of Technology Sydney published a research paper in the journal PLOS One. The paper highlights the effectiveness and user-friendliness of acoustic touch technology. This research paper indicates a study that shows testing this device on 14 participants.

The participants were divided into two groups of seven. One group consisted of people with blindness. The other group consisted of sighted people who wore blindfolds and acted as a control group.
In the study, wearable devices equipped with acoustic technology enhanced the ability of individuals with low vision or blindness to identify objects easier.

As Dr Zhu said, “The auditory feedback allows users to pinpoint and grasp objects with notable precision. Our results suggest that acoustic touch presents a viable and wearable means of sensory enhancement for the visually impaired community.”

The technology provided enhanced spatial and situational awareness without imposing excessive cognitive strain on users. This indicates acoustic touch could be a valuable assistive tool by augmenting environmental perception and easing navigation for the blind.
While the sample size is indeed small, the results do show a promising future for this technology.

Technology Aims to Improve Daily Living

glass with acoustic touch

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 39 million people worldwide are totally blind, while a further 246 million have moderate to severe vision impairment. These forms of vision impairment can greatly interfere with daily living skills and independence. Assistance technology acoustic touch imbued within glasses to help the blind see with sound can help reduce these challenges. Therefore, they are crucial for improving the quality of life.

Furthermore, developers of acoustic tech aid this technology in assisting people, especially those suffering from partial/complete blindness in performing their daily tasks easily. This is because, for them, simple tasks such as finding dropped objects, sorting laundry, or locating car keys can become frustratingly difficult. The acoustic touch aids the said individuals in gaining better freedom while performing these tasks.

Future Possibilities for This Emerging Technology

Needless to say, this technology of acoustic touch is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, it signifies an exciting innovation that could become a fundamental assistive technology for smart glasses and other devices designed for completely or legally blind users. As technology advances, there are likely opportunities for more sophisticated soundscapes to generate. Furthermore, as the technology grows, there is bound to be advancement in this technology. While the future remains to be seen, we can assume that someday, acoustic touch technology can stimulate vision itself. Naturally, the effectiveness of this technology will vary depending on the adeptness of the user as well.

Conclusion

Acoustic touch technology is a thrilling and promising innovation for aiding blind and visually impaired individuals. When integrated into glasses, it creates a glasses to help the blind see with sound, akin to how bats use echolocation. The research suggests that this technology can improve environmental awareness and navigation by providing auditory representations of surroundings. Although still emerging, acoustic touch holds significant potential in promoting greater mobility and independence.
In this blog, we discussed what this technology is and its aim. Furthermore, we also took a glimpse at its future. Regardless, we hope you found this helpful. If you want further insights into the various aspects of technology, do check out some of our other blogs. And as always, thank you for reading till the end.

FAQ on Acoustic Touch

What is acoustic touch?
Acoustic Touch is a technology that transforms the visual input into auditory information. This information is done through the combination of AI and computer technology. It aims to aid the blind and visually impaired people in “seeing” the world.

Does acoustic touch restore vision?

No, it does not restore vision. However, it does provide a representation of visual information through sound that improves blind users’ spatial abilities and mobility.

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