Echolocating App That Will Let To Map A Room With Sound

Bats, dolphins and even some blind people use echoes to create a mental 3D map of their environment and where they are in it. A smartphone's app could soon let us do the same.

Ivan Dokmanic and colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne have developed a system capable of reconstructing the shape of a room – and where you are in it - using echoes.

Human echolocators say  the trick behind this is sensing the strong early reflections off the walls, rather than the noisy, confusing mishmash of late-arriving, weaker echoes.

The EPFL team has developed a system capable of reconstructing the shape of a room using these "first order" echoes in order to computerise this process of 3D visualisation. To do this, the researchers wrote an echo-sorting algorithm which can discriminate between the first and later echoes.

To test their plan they set up a loudspeaker and five microphones in Lausanne cathedral. The speaker briefly emitted an audible chirp - sweeping from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz - and the reflections were analysed to successfully reveal the cathedral's 3D shape and the location of the sound source.

Now the team wants to build an app that works using inaudible ultrasound to map interiors and tell people where they are in them. This would need multiple phones cooperating over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in the building.

Dokmanic says that "At least four microphones are needed to ensure we robustly capture first order echoes and reject noise," . 

Dokmanic, currently on secondment to Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, says the indoor localisation app should be ready in a year's time.

"To make an app which can listen to mobile phone speech and help you echolocate presents a huge number of challenges. In a crowded mall fellow shoppers would scatter and absorb echoes, while the chatty hubbub would mask the sound of the reflections."

Echo is a mobile app that connects you with your location though simple 140 character messages. when you open the app, echo automatically detects which city you are in and provides you with the most recent updates from echo users in that city. It's a great way to get local news discover events and interact with people around you. 
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Write by: RC - Sunday, June 23, 2013

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