Sound mapping - holistic vision and blind experience.

I decided to put aside for a while my whole idea of constraining one's senses. This concept is still totally valid for my project, meant to enhance the user experience by enabling new behaviours. However, constraining the user is also, at the moment, constraining my critical thinking and creative practice.

At first, I thought speaking with Thor (sound designer) during his talk/workshop at CSM couldn't be very useful for my project. Not because of the man -who's doing a great work and was very enthusiastic with our projects- but because I was already focusing on replacing the vision. Indeed, the last thing I needed was to complexify even more the project.

Most of the ideas we had during our... let's call it brainstorm, were not realistic or even useable because it was involving another painful branch of the project : designing sound, designing multiple sound emitters, and finally designing the environment/rules/signage with coherency.

Thor gave me lots of fresh ideas inspired from video games to curation. We had a short talk about the vision of blind people and the importance of taking sound into account at a brand new level. He gave me multiple literary references dealing with propagation of sound in space, sound mapping, sound frequencies, interferences and finally, a very sensible approach to a blind experience, recounting in a very positive way the world as seen through sounds and other senses.

The ''vision'' of blind people was already a main part of my research. Do you remember Daredevil's vision, both in the comic and the (poor) movie ? His sense of hearing is so well developed that he's able to properly see his environment.This vision called shadow vision, or more often radar vision, is an evolution of the ability described by many blind people to locate very precisely the origin of each sounds around them, then mapping them in a coherent mental image.

When it starts raining, Daredevil hears the sound produced from each drop impact on the environment to create a cloud of points surrounding the person with a very similar render to my 3D scan, except I'll not scan Jennifer Garner's body.

Daredevil's vision from the movie.

Leaving Daredevil aside, I found numerous novels or studies about visually impaired vision and experiences. When it's not directly from a blind author, either it becomes very scientific or really intriguing. You can find tons of articles on the internet about this famous shadow vision made from souvenirs, imagination and sound perception. How do blind people dream ? Are they able to see things ? This is indeed very intriguing questions which, in my opinion, traduce the fear of losing our major sense, everything which deal with eyes is utterly scary for most of the people.

How are we supposed to imagine that blind people are able to see things differently when we're diving in a scary ocean of darkness as soon as we close our eyes ?

« The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was. »

Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

It takes time to develop new senses and new behaviours - connecting this part to my original idea to constrain one's senses to enable new behaviours. This is indeed what it is all about, pushing the boundaries of vision by replacing the eye as our major and unique sense : we have to believe in our extraordinary capacity of adaptation and evolution.

A blind experiment, which has to be differentiated from a blind experience, is a medicine term in which some of the persons involved are prevented from knowing certain information that might lead to conscious or unconscious bias on their part, invalidating the results. The experience I would like to provide with my helmet is quite similar, displaying a new environment, with a brand new point of view, catalysing one's conscious and unconscious.

All these ideas involving the unconscious are intriguing, certainly because of their unpredictable and creative mechanisms. I asked the question below, how do visually impaired people dream ? I made some research on the subject and it came out that those who are born blind or become blind before the age of five do not see in their dreams. Nevertheless, their dreams are just as rich in narrative and detail as in sighted people. If one's sight is lost after the age of seven, dreams will still brim with visual imagery.

Despite the grey area which occurs between five and seven years, we can differentiate two different sides. By making a connection with the blind experiment below, the sooner a person lose his sense of vision, the sooner the unconscious will be involved in the making process of an alternative vision of reality based on the other senses.

My project is not based on a blind experience, a single band of fabric in front of the eyes will do the job better. I'm taking into account this holistic idea of fusion the senses into a brand new vision. The helmet is not meant to blind the user but to immerse the person into an alternative reality inspired from this radar vision described by many vision impaired people. The live 3D scan allows the user to rotate around his environment, deconstructing the ideas of perspective, texture and surfaces by placing undifferentiated objects and mental images into a cloud of points, leaving the imagination of the user free to create his own experience.

I'm working on the next evolution of the software which will modify the live-scanned environment according to environmental sounds, a bit like an equalizer. Blind people will remember a place according to sounds : two different noisy spaces will certainly have more in common than the same place at two different time of the day for example. My new vision will allow different users to experience the same environment in very different ways according to both uncontrolled sound emitters such as human activity, rain/thunder, wind. And controlled ones such as user's own sounds and he's own choices to be surrounded by sound emitters and experience a blurry, rich environment or, at the opposite, he has the possibility to hide and protect himself from sounds, leaving any possibility of discovering and interaction aside. This is all about making decisions.

The next post will be focus on the software development and why not a demo if I'm ready for it. I'm also working on a special feature allowing to record the datas of the scanned environment. This way, I should be able to map the user experience which could be a great record to compare each person's behaviours once placed in the same place with their vision modified.

" Hellen Keller, who became blind at the age of 19 months, claimed to have "visions of ineffable beauty."

Hellen Keller.

Relevant link : Blind people and their dreams -

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