I wouldn’t have thought this was possible, but here’s video of a 14-year-old kid, completely blind since he was two, who gets around just fine by clicking his tongue constantly and using echolocation. He avoids unforeseen obstacles, goes rollerblading, and plays video games by sound too:
Incredible. My hat would be off to him, if I were wearing one.
Time to piss on everybody’s party, I guess. I saw this kid on Ellen and Oprah and there, he did nothing impressive. Nothing I haven’t seen blind people do that don’t claim to use echolocation, anyway.
As for this video, it must be fake somehow. A fucking bat couldn’t play foosball with echolocation. It’s just not possible to play a fighting video game with your ears alone, unless this is some freaky game I’m not familiar with where the sounds of the fighters change depending on where they are on the screen. It doesn’t matter how good your hearing is, there’s information that just isn’t in the sound.
I’ll believe this when he beats me at foosball with an expertly applied blindfold on.
As to the video games, lots of fighting games you can play with your eyes closed and do ok. The characters automatically face each other, if he can listen for the jumping noise I don’t see anything strange about it.
I am sure to go along with a huge flat screen TV they have a state of the art sound system. Most games now will play in full 3-D sound. So it wouldn’t be that difficult to know where everything is if you were used to listening to such cues.
I saw the Discovery (or TLC) special on this kid, too. And although he was very good, when he was removed to an unfamiliar location it was much harder for him to navigate. He was almost over-confident about his abilities. Another blind guy who teaches how to use a cane took him on a hike with a group of people. Although he was very anti-cane, thinking it makes him as different, he did acknowledge that it make it safer when going through an area full of unknown pitfalls.
Bats can do amazing things with echolocation. Richard Dawkins goes on about them at great length in The Blind Watchmaker. Tracking a fast moving mosquito does not seem any less incredible than playing foosball. I have no doubt that a bat could use its echolocation to track a large metal ball and, if it had the hands and inclination, play and win a game of foosball. Probably not while it was fucking though. That might distract the bat from its game.
Obviously human echolocation isn’t going to be anywhere near as precise as a bat. For one thing we can’t send or receive the very high frequencies needed for precision. But the kid was noticing garbage cans, not tiny insects.
My guess is that he was using regular hearing, not echolocation, to track the foosball. Also, to be fair, the reporter might have had an unconcious desire to let the blind kid win. And the reporter might simply have been a crappy foosball player.