Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

How blind people can navigate better using Echolocation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Echolocation

Mains level: NA

A technique used by animals such as dolphins, whales, and bats to navigate their surroundings can also be used by blind people to get around better and have greater independence and well-being, researchers at Durham University in the UK have shown.

What is Echolocation?

  • Echolocation, also called biosonar, is a biological sonar used by several animal species.
  • Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them.
  • They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects.

What has the new study found?

  • The same technique can help blind people locate still objects by producing clicking sounds from their mouth and hands.
  • The researchers organized a 10-week training programme, in which 12 blind and 14 sighted volunteers aged between 21 and 79 were taught click-based echolocation.
  • The volunteers were trained in distinguishing between the size of objects, orientation perception and virtual navigation.
  • At the end of the training, the participants had been able to improve their ability to navigate using clicking noises either from one’s mouth, walking cane taps or footsteps.

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