You can now Listen to Wi-Fi – Reports Claim


Nope, we’re not talking about the screeching sounds of a Dial-Up modem from the 90’s – you can (apparently) hear WiFi with the help of some fancy hearing aids.

In comes Frank Swain, not exactly a bionic human, but has the ability to listen out to a WiFi signal. He’s able to do this by utilizing his modified hearing aids installed with his special ‘Phantom Terrains’ tooling.

Designed in conjunction with sound artist Daniel Jones, Swain has reportedly been experiencing a decrease in his hearing abilities since age 20. He applied and was approved for a grant through a UK innovation charity – rending Phantom Terrains a possibility. The software operates through a jail broken iPhone and works by tuning into wireless communication fields. This software picks up information such as the router name, encryption modes and distance to the device.

Swain produced a whole essay on this subject, published in New Scientist. Thanks to IFL Science, we were able to get our hands on an excerpt of it:

“The strength of the signal, direction, name and security level on these are translated into an audio stream made up of a foreground and background later: distant signals click and pop like hits on a Geiger counter, while the strongest bleat their network ID in a looped melody,” Swain writes in an essay in New Scientist. “The audio is streamed constantly to a pair of hearing aids. The extra sound layer is blended with the normal output of the hearing aids; it simply becomes part of my soundscape. So long as I carry my phone with me, I will always be able to hear Wi-Fi.” IFL Science and New Scientist

What exactly is the point of this software function? We’re not exactly sure. But it’s pretty cool none-the-less.

Interested in hearing exactly what it sounds like? Thankfully they’ve uploaded it to Sound Cloud and it mirrors something of a horror movie or space-based gaming cut scene.

Image courtesy of Stack Exchange

New Virtual Torch That Can Help the Blind “See”

University of Cincinnati grad student Luis Favela has created a new type of sensor that could effectivly allow blind people to “see”. Of course they can’t actually see, but this device will allow them to sense their surroundings.

The Enactive Torch, as it is called, sends out infrared signals which enable the user to sense nearby objects. The sensing works thanks to a small buzzer that is attached to the wrist and alerts them if they are about to run into a door frame, wall or whatnot. TechCrunch calls it “a cane on steroids,” and that seems an acurate description.

The ordinary white cane as we know it has worked for centuries, but the smaller and more compact Torch could help users travel rough terrain or the local mall as easy as a seeing person. The prototype of the Enactive Torch is still fairly big, but Luis hopes to shrink it with more experimentation. It currently has a range between four inches and three feet.

“In my research I’ve found that there’s an emotional stigma that people who are visually impaired experience, particularly children,” Favela says. “When you’re a kid in elementary school, you want to blend in and be part of the group. It’s hard to do that when you’re carrying this big, white cane.”

Favela tested his Torch on 27 students by blindfolding them and putting them in an unknown environment. They had no trouble navigating around, move through doors and avoid walls. They were even able to use the Torch to sense objects near their feet. The resulting data was presented at the APA convention in DC.

“When you compare the participants’ judgments with vision, cane and Enactive Torch, there was not a significant difference, meaning that they made the same judgments,” said Favela. “The three modalities are functionally equivalent. People can carry out actions just about to the same degree whether they’re using their vision or their sense of touch. I was really surprised.”

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Colleen Kelley.


New Smart Glasses to Aid Blind People

A pair of smart glasses that could transform the lives of blind and partially-sighted people could be in the shops as soon as 2016. The joint project between the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the University of Oxford and the has won a £500.000 grant in a Google charity competition.

The new smart glasses would enable those suffering from sight loss to see obstacles and faces, similar to the fictional high-tech visor worn by Geordi La Forge in the TV show Star Trek. They consist of a video camera on the frame, a computer processing unit small enough to fit in a pocket and a software to provide images of objects close-by onto the see-through displays.

The RNIB is planning to create 100 pairs of smart glasses and test them with 1000 people. This will be the first large-scale test of smart glasses and augmented reality for sight enhancement anywhere in the world. The glasses could later be sold for as little as £300. It is estimated the new smart glasses could help over half of the 300.000 people registered as blind in the UK.

“The idea of the smart glasses is to give people with poor vision an aid that boosts their awareness of what’s around them – allowing greater freedom, independence and confidence to get about, and a much improved quality of life,” says Dr Stephen Hicks of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford.

Further funding has been given by the Royal Society to create even more features for the glasses. Face, object and text recognition as well as an audio prompt via earpiece are being considered. “We eventually want to have a product that will look like a regular pair of glasses and cost no more than a few hundred pounds – about the same as a smart phone,” says Dr Hicks.

Iain Cairns of London tried out the smart glasses. The 43-year-old was diagnosed with the inherited eye condition choroideremia at 12 and only has an area of central vision left in each eye. Working at the computer and writing still works for him, but he did start to use a cane around three years ago.

When fitted with the glasses, Iain reacted: “I can see your face. It’s like the Lord of the Rings when he puts the ring on and sees things in a new way.”

More information about the smart glasses to aid blind people can be found on the RNIB’s homepage

Thank you Daily Mail for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Daily Mail