Audification of Ultrasound for Human Echolocation
Davies, Theresa Claire
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Individuals with functional blindness must often utilise assistive aids to enable them to complete tasks of daily living. One of these tasks, locomotion, poses considerable risk. The long white cane is often used to perform haptic exploration, but cannot detect obstacles that are not ground-based. Although devices have been developed to provide information above waist height, these do not provide auditory interfaces that are easy to learn. Development of such devices should adapt to the user, not require adaptation by the user. Can obstacle avoidance be achieved through direct perception? This research presents an auditory interface that has been designed with the user as the primary focus. An analysis of the tasks required has been taken into account resulting in an interface that audifies ultrasound. Audification provides intuitive information to the user to enable perceptive response to environmental obstacles. A device was developed that provides Doppler shift signals that are audible as a result of intentional aliasing. This system provides acoustic flow that is evident upon initiation of travel and has been shown to be effective in perceiving apertures and avoiding environmental obstacles. The orientation of receivers on this device was also examined, resulting in better distance perception and centreline accuracy when oriented outward as compared to forward. The design of this novel user interface for visually impaired individuals has also provided a tool that can be used to evaluate direct perception and acoustic flow in a manner that has never been studied before.