Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Edge Finding, Edge Tracing and Shape Identification

Recently I had someone ask me about seeing shapes with echolocation and that he was having trouble doing so.  He could see distance - tell if something is in front of him or not - but was not able to tell what the object was.

This is a great question and something I realized I have somewhat glanced over on this blog.  It's important to note that you will most likely NOT see shapes when just getting started.  If you are sighted, like this person, or blind and only use echolocation as a guideline for determining your generic environment, you have got a ways to go before you will actually be able to distinguish shapes.

Echolocation should be trained one little step at a time.  If you can sense distance or at least have a feeling whether or not something is in front of you, the next step is "edge finding".  Locate the object until it drops off.  There's the edge!  Keep training that however, because you'll notice that the edges come into focus better and better over time.  Move the position of your head back and forth over the object edge and really try to identify where the exact edge is.  It's good to do edge finding on hard, flat objects with crisp lines and nothing in the background such that the signal is completely different on either side of the edge.  A doorjamb is a good tool for edge finding.

The next step should be "edge tracing".  Once you can easily identify an edge, you should work on following that edge to circumscribe an object.  This can be practiced on a parked car, dresser, furniture, trash cans, etc.  Continue to practice edge tracing until you are comfortable with it.  Each time you do this exercise your brain is building new neural connections and making it easier for you to identify edges and certain shapes.

Eventually, with this progressive practice, you may be able to see entire shapes at a glance, but I think that even very adept, blind from birth, echolocators still sometimes struggle with seeing full shapes.  Instead they might see edges, one at a time, and have to piece them together over the course of a few clicks.

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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