“The vOICe”

This is a simple but ingenious computer program that translates an image into an audio “code” that, with practice, the brain is capable of translating back into an image. It can be used by a person who is completely blind to “see” again in a rudimentary way.

How it works:

For reference, think about the way a gray-scale image looks on a computer screen. Each pixel in the image has an (x,y) coordinate and also a brightness. The vOICe samples vertical lines of the image, going from left to right, producing an instant of sound for each line. Brightness is represented by volume, the lounder the volume, the brighter. The y coordinate is represented by pitch, the higher the pitch the further up the pixel is. The x coordiate is that of the line, which is easily represented direcitonally by use of stereo sound. Keep in mind that you can have a varying range of pitches and volumes in any moment of sound, so an entire vertical line can be represented at once.

Perhaps a diagram would help those of us who use our actual eyes to see.

How the vOICe generates audio.

But to really understand how this technology works, you’ll have to hear it for yourself.

Visit http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archives/04-05/apr02.html to listen to the recording of the CBC radio broadcast show “Quirks and Quarks” to hear the story of how “The vOICe” is helping a woman see again.

After that, you can visit http://www.seeingwithsound.com/winvoice.htm to download a free copy of the program.

(I have practiced with the program for several hours now, blindfolded. There is a practice exercise where you play a game of tic-tac-toe, while all the time the vOICe is producing the audio for the image. It takes quite a bit of practice to use, but it feels neat to be able to know what’s going on in the game by using your ears to see it, rather than your eyes.)

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