Human tongue clicks and how the brain performs echolocation

A project log for Visually Impaired Pulse Echo Ranging (VIPER)

A technology for helping those whose vision is impaired to more easily navigate through their local environments

R. SnyderR. Snyder 10/10/2016 at 00:410 Comments

At least one blind person has developed a high level of proficiency in echolocation using tongue clicks. However, the clicking tongue is a single emitter. The VIPER device provides multiple emitters oriented in different directions to allow a mosaic image to be formed from multiple sectors of echo information, enhancing overall spatial perception.

Self-consciousness of making clicking sounds with one's tongue can discourage persons from making tongue clicks. The electronically generated acoustic pulses of the VIPER device can avoid such self-consciousness by attributing the sound to the device, not the user, similar to way those who are uncomfortable singing karaoke are generally comfortable listening to music from other sources.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) provides an amazing way to study the portions of the brain involved in various human activities in real time. Scientists have used fMRI to study human echolocation in early and late blind echolocation experts.