Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Can the Blind "Hear" Colors, Shapes? Yes, Shows Researchers

An article in the Science Daily has opened up a whole new door for those who have a loss of vision. Research conducted by Professor Amir Amendi at the Center for Human Perception and Cognition, has given some hope for the visually impaired by using Sensory Substitution Devices (SSDs) which are sensory aids that provide the blind with visual info by utilizing their other existing senses. The blind wear a mini camera on their head which is connected to a computer or a smart phone and also to headphones. the computer or smart phone then uses the images recorded by the camera and converts them into "soundscapes," based on a basic algorithm, thus allowing the individual to hear the "soundscapes" and interpret the image captured by the camera. The app EyeMusic SSD enables the individual to hear pleasant musical notes that suggest information about colors, shapes or location of objects in the environment. This task involves prior training before being able to identify and interpret the information that is given. In Scientific journals, Neuron and Current Biology, this app was used by the blind to show that it can convey images from the sounds they hear into complicated categories such as identifying faces, or an entire outdoor scenery, locate positions of people, and even recognize facial expressions and read letters. This YouTube video demonstrates these abilities. Although this instrument had not been widely used by the blind population due to various factors such as price, size of equipment, etc. Things have been improved by reducing the cost and making SSD usable even in a smart phone and new trainings that are more efficient in order to get this into the population and to start using it more in day-to-day lives.

Posted by: Jefi Varghese (3)


  1. I read somewhere that when one of our senses is no longer usable, the others will strengthen. New technology for those with loss of vision is important in not only their daily lives, but the lives of others as well. With so much technology coming out, including the new google glasses, do you think that they can somehow make this device more cost efficient? Is there something researchers can do to spread the word on such a great invention?

    Posted by Lindsey Janof

  2. This article is very interesting because this is actually a real disorder called synthesia. Those affected are thought to have some sort of overlapping between neurons of different senses allowing them to "taste color," "smell words," etc. It arose from a mutation within humans, yet it has a benefit to certain groups of people allowing them to possibly compose music or understand math at an above-average level. Maybe it is an evolutionary beneficial trait which is something rarely seen now.


  3. This is very great to hear that SSDs can help blinds to interpret images by other senses. I actually discussed with my friends years ago about what a specific color will appear to a blind who have never seen that color before. I argued that the "blue" in their mind is different that the actual "blue". But with the invention of SSDs, they can have the same colors perception.

    Yim Hui