Irene is helping the Blind See with Sound
A new initiative promises help for blind and visually impaired gain more mobility, independence and confidence.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are a quarter billion people in the world with vision impairment. Of those, more than 80 million are completely blind. That is twice the population of Canada.
Developing a technology that could sense and reconstruct reality for blind people can be one approach. But, a technology that enables blind and vision impaired to mediate their perception of their environment and interact with their surroundings is actually empowering then to be independent from aid devices.
Many blind and partially sighted people of all ages are unable to lead independent lives because they are not getting the support they need. The needs of people who lose their sight are many and varied and the support provided must be personalized if it is to meet individual needs. Teaching the blind to see with hearing using echolocation would be a way to make the largest impact, beyond the use of sight. The benefits of acquiring this skill changes the way you interact with your surroundings on a daily basis. It decreases limitations and opens the door to new opportunities.
The Journey begins
Irene Lanza, Management Engineer, CEO of SoundSight Training, knows it’s possible. Irene came in contact with the Scimpulse Foundation while participating in theChallenge Based Innovation program of IdeaSquare at CERN in Geneva. The challenge was to design something that enabled blind people to perceive the surrounding environment. It was then the idea was planted. Many opted for a mobile device approach, something else called the attention of Irene. Teaching the blind to echolocate themselves?
Through this experience, Irene had the opportunity to interact with the visually impaired. Through working with mothers of blind children and getting to hear their stories, setbacks and concerns the more Irene wanted to do something to support and empower them. Guidance of blind and visually impaired people is a clear unmet need. However, most blind and visually impaired people want to go out and enjoy independent mobility.
The environment in which we live is becoming increasingly complex. Even a journey across a city requires a range of skills including being able to avoid obstacles on the pavement, to walk in the right direction, play a sport and the list goes on. These tasks may seem trivial, but for someone with a vision impairment, this is a challenge and a skill that needs to be learned. SoundSight enables the development of a hearing talent that compensates for the missing eyesight.
See With Sound
SoundSight Training was developed to enable the blind to see with sound. Together, with Henrik Kjeldsen and Dr. Marco Manca the first prototype of an echolocation training system, was created.
It’s a virtual reality environment based on audio. The training is completed with practice in the real world until the student becomes fully independent from the simulation. Further explanation of how can be found here. SoundSight attracted the attention of the Italian government and a number of organisations and advocates that offered its support. Among them were, Cecilia Camellini, Champion Paralympic Swimmer. When asked what she thought of SoundSight, “with training and effort athletes can improve performance.”
Experience the world more independently
SoundSight Training is a spinoff of the Let Me See Project, the first from the ScimPulse Foundation I.M.mortal research program. It was a 3 year journey that started from a workshop and now partners with governmental organizations to impulse the idea forward beyond the prototype stage. Now it has its own heartbeat. SoundSight Training designed to helping people explore the world more independently.
“This software has the potential to enrich the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired. Everyone can learn this skill, it’s accessible to everyone and when we design for greater accessibility, everyone benefits.” says Irene Lanza.
Improving performance, challenging yourself, to overcome limitations, all of this effects humanity’s growth, expansion and well-being. The challenges for the visually impaired are enormous, so immense are the ramifications for those now living without sight, and so exciting is the initiative on the horizon.
For more information about SoundSight initiative, please visit www.soundsight.ch. Like and Share and Connect with us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter Linkedin #scimpulse