Saturday, June 2, 2012

Intermediate Echolocation Lesson #2 - Scanning for Simple "Calibration" Targets

I'm currently packing up my house and my wife and I are moving to a new house in Maine.  As everything is out of order, furniture is out of place and there are tons of other obstacles (namely boxes) strewn about the house everywhere, I am, of course, taking this as an opportunity to practice echolocation in this new environment.

As I attempted to pick my way through a basement chock full of boxes I tried different sounds.  (Lately, I've been trying the "sshh" sound and having very good luck with it.  I'll write another post about the benefits of this type of beacon soon.)  I stood at one end of the basement, turned around in circles several times and then tried to pick my way through the room, admittedly using memory to identify the locations of some of the obstacles and attempting to correlate those memories to what I was picking up with echolocation.

Sound Reflections on
"Angled" vs "Flat"
Boxes are unique in that they are a very predictable size and shape and have nice flat exposed sides for reflecting sound.  Aiming downward at an object near my feet, it was easy to determine the edge of the object. The flat surface on the top of the box reflects sound straight back up at my face (ears) making it a great target.  Moving my head from side to side I was able to determine where the box was and how to go around it.  Boxes in front of me were more difficult especially if they are not facing me directly.  The illustration to the right shows sound being reflected off of two different boxes - one with a side facing me, and one with a corner facing me.  The signal (red) hits the boxes both the same, but the reflection, or echo (blue) is completely different making it much more difficult to hear the echo from the box with the corner facing me.

Scan for Simple Targets at First

Knowing this, it is particularly interesting to scan the room and try to find all of the boxes or objects that have nice big target surfaces.  I did this using the "sshh" sound since it was very quite room with no other interfering noises and all of the objects I was looking for were fairly close to me.  After just a few minutes of echolocating around the room, I was able to easily detect all of the boxes with nice flat surfaces pointing at me.


You can use this strategy to determine "calibration points" like walls, television screen, cupboards, refrigerator, etc.  Objects that have nice flat surfaces that you will easily be able to detect using echolocation.  This calibration will begin to help you orient yourself in a room sufficiently to understand some of the large components.  For instance, if you are in a square room, you will receive strong echo signals from four sides, and a weaker echo signal from the corner areas.

Try this out and let me know what you think!

Free 10-Minute Audio Lesson: Learn the Echolocation Click

Learn echolocation clicks with a free audio lesson
Learning how to click is one of the first steps to becoming an effective echoloator. This lesson provides clicking samples of a variety of different clicks and descriptions of when they might be most useful. This lesson has been used by O&M instructors all over the world.

Despite popular belief, it's easy to make your clicking quite subtle or unnoticeable even in quiet settings. There are many different clicks for different situations. I explain all of these in great detail and give examples of where, why and when they can and should be used.

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